It’s an unfortunate scene that plays out in almost every athletic contest you see on TV. A play comes to an end and within moments, there’s a team of people rushing out to provide care to an injured athlete. There’s a time where this team surveys the environment, the athlete (patient), performs some testing, and then provides additional care in some form or fashion. Who are the people that go onto the field when an athlete is injured? These health care professionals are athletic trainers (ATs) and they play extremely important roles in helping prevent, recognize, diagnose, and treat athletic injuries.
What is an athletic trainer?
As the National Athletic Trainers’ Association says, athletic trainers are “highly qualified…health care professionals.”1 These professionals provide “primary care, injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, and therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries.”1
Given their unique training and expertise, athletic trainers are incredibly important in helping protect athletes before, during, and after an injury or illness occurs.
What does an athletic trainer do?
The roles and duties of an athletic trainer can vary and differ depending on the setting and location that they are working in. In the simplest of descriptions, athletic trainers are unique health care providers that specialize in preventing athletic injuries, recognizing and diagnosing injuries and illnesses, and treating and rehabilitating active patients from their injuries. Within these three main roles are hundreds of other duties and responsibilities that take place through the course of a year or athletic season. The depth and breadth of these duties alone make athletic trainers an incredibly important part of any sports medicine team and organization.
Who can be an athletic trainer?
Anyone can pursue a career as an athletic trainer! However, there are a handful of requirements that need to be completed prior to entering into clinical practice as an athletic trainer.
- Successfully complete the curriculum within an accredited Athletic Training Program
- Earn a degree from an accredited Athletic Training Program
- Pass the Board of Certification (BOC) Exam – this is the National certification exam that establishes the profession’s health care credential
- Complete your state’s credentialing process – this is often in the form of licensure or additional certification
Where do athletic trainers work?
Answering a question with a question, where do you find active populations? There are numerous settings that you may find them. “Traditional” settings like high schools, colleges, and various sports teams are most common. “Emerging” settings like tactical athletes, performing arts, and industrial settings are areas where athletic trainers are being employed more and more. This means that you often will cross paths with athletic trainers in traveling performances, fire and police departments, military trainings, factories, and theme parks!
Why are athletic trainers important?
Athletic trainers are important because of the many benefits that they provide to their teams, organizations, departments, and employers.
Qualified and Immediate Health Care
Certified athletic trainers provide real-time and immediate health care to injured patients wherever they may be active. On the sidelines, fields, in gyms, and even in factories, athletic trainers are able to be a first responder to many different populations. It is not uncommon to find an athletic trainer at the side of an injured patient within seconds of their injury.
Diverse Skills and Abilities
Athletic trainers are important assets to any health care team due to their education and training. There are few (if any) health care professions that are able to interact and provide care to their patients and athletes before, during, and after an injury occurs. This type of presence requires training from athletic training programs that prepares them to respond to all sorts of needs that a team or athlete may face. Dynamic environments call for dynamic skills – athletic trainers have them!
A Trusted Health Care Provider
One of the benefits of having an athletic trainer is the presence of a known and trusted health care provider on the sidelines and in the clinic. Few, if any, health care providers are able to see, interact with, and treat their patients every single day. This day-to-day and near-immediate access to health care strengthens a strong rapport between the patient and health care provider.
An undervalued benefit of athletic training is the value that they provide the patients, teams, and organizations they work with. It is not uncommon to find athletic trainers providing qualified health care at low cost to historically underserved populations. Additionally, athletic trainers are often the only regular health care interaction that many patients have.
An often understated important role that athletic trainers play is their ability to mitigate the risk that occurs with day-to-day athletic participation. Participation in these sports specific activities involves exposures to injuries and illnesses. Having athletic trainers on-site allows for opportunities to prevent and proactively respond to these exposures with a qualified professional.
The profession of athletic training is an extremely important and exciting profession. The first step towards becoming an athletic trainer is finding an athletic training program that pushes you towards your goals. The University of Idaho Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) Program does just that! Our program’s faculty not only prepares you to provide qualified health care but prepares you to make a meaningful impact on your patients on day one. We prepare YOU to be the trusted health care professional delivering unparalleled value to your patients and organizations!