If you ask most people “What do athletic trainers do?” the first thing that pops into their minds is working for a professional sports team. Although athletic trainers have been moving into other arenas of healthcare, sport teams are still a very common employment setting. So do you have what it takes to be an athletic trainer for a professional sports team? Let’s take a look.
What is an athletic trainer’s job description?
Athletic trainers are highly skilled health care professionals who address issues such as injury prevention, assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation. Within these broad categories, athletic trainer job descriptions can vary in different career placements. Let’s look at each of these categories through the lens of a professional sports team.
Athletic trainers have a dynamic understanding of the human body, and the repetitive motions that can cause injuries. For sports teams they may help with leading dynamic warm-ups, preparing modalities that assist in recovery, and other preventative care. Injury prevention doesn’t just mean stopping injuries before they happen, but also mitigating risks that can lead to injury and helping players maintain their overall wellness.
Athletic trainers are often the first healthcare professional on the scene after an athlete sustains an injury. Depending on the injury, they may use a variety of tools and techniques for clinical examination and diagnosis. They quickly decide if an athlete can return to play or if they need further medical attention.
There is a broad array of treatments available in the athletic trainer’s toolbox. These approaches to treatment can range from simple applications like icing to complex therapeutic exercise programs. In addition to these, athletic trainers skills include various forms of manual therapy, soft tissue mobilization, electrical modalities, and hydrotherapy techniques. Athletic trainers in sports teams settings are experts at treatment approaches that are best and most effective for each patient-athlete and injury they encounter.
Athletes want to get back on the field of play as quickly as possible, and athletic trainers are there to help them do just that. They create rehabilitation plans that gradually help athletes move past their injuries to be stronger and better prepared for the demands of their sport. Before they return to playing, athletic trainers evaluate the specific areas of the body impacted by their injury, as well as making sure mechanisms are in place to prevent the injury from occurring again.
While many athletic trainers may work in a clinic year-round on a set schedule, that isn’t necessarily true for those employed by professional sports teams. Some may be hired for the portion of the year the team is practicing and playing and these positions almost always involve working nights and weekends. They also travel with the team, which can mean long stretches away from home, but also getting an opportunity to see different cities. It is a fast-paced and constantly changing work environment which is well-suited for some, and not for others.
What are the qualifications for being an athletic trainer?
To become a certified athletic trainer, you must graduate from a certified program and pass the BOC (Board of Certification) exam. After passing the exam, you complete continuing education units to stay educated and maintain your certification. This certification is recognized nationally and is mandatory for state licensure in 48 out of 50 states.
There was a time when most athletic trainers would sit for the BOC (Board of Certification) exam after completing a four-year undergraduate degree, but that is changing. Now most athletic training programs are master’s programs, which allows for a greater depth of instruction and greater focus to be placed on athletic training-specific skills. Our undergraduate program transitioned to a master’s program in 2012. Having a master’s program meant we could change our instructional model. Our students now spend Fall and Spring semesters in clinical sites across the country while taking online instruction. They do hands-on learning on campus in the summer. That sort of immersive model leads to athletic training graduates who are much more prepared for the job market, and simply would be impossible to implement as an undergraduate degree.
What are the pre-requisites for Athletic Training for a professional sports team?
As you can imagine, this is a competitive field in the job market. If that is the career choice for you, you’ll want to start early building a strong resume and forging professional connections. You’ll want to intern with sports teams in your desired settings and build experience working with sports teams throughout your academics.
One of the awesome things about the University of Idaho is that we can help you with building those experiences and growing professional connections. Our master’s students do clinical rotations in sites across the country, with placements available with professional sports teams. This gives our students the opportunity to see the on-the-ground operations, learn skills specific to sport team rehabilitation, and make connections within the industry.
Do you have what it takes?
Can you be an athletic trainer for a sports team? Only one person can answer this question: you. But if you’re considering athletic training and are looking for a school to help you grow the skills and knowledge needed to work with a sports team, please reach out! We’re here and always are excited to talk to prospective students and answer their questions. Even if you ultimately decide to go somewhere else, we’d be thrilled to be part of your athletic training journey.