Unless you are an athlete or medical professional, you may be one of the many who do not necessarily know what an athletic trainer is, or what they do. Is an athletic trainer the same as a personal trainer? What sort of education do athletic trainers receive? What are the duties of an athletic trainer? If you’ve found yourself asking any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s take a moment to look over some common questions about athletic training.
What is an athletic trainer?
As defined by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), an athletic trainer is a highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professional specifically trained in the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of medical conditions and emergent, acute, and chronic injuries. For active people such as athletes, there is a direct link between access to athletic training and health outcomes. This is different from a personal trainer, who helps their clients reach fitness goals.
How do athletic trainers help athletes and other active patients?
When imagining how athletic training and health relate, the first example that may come to mind is athletic trainers keeping athletes hydrated during the high-stakes game. However, athletic trainers do much more than fill water bottles. Athletic trainers prevent injuries by providing safety education, examining equipment, and minimizing known hazards. They prepare for injuries by creating emergency action plans, medical kits, and educating responders. They diagnose and treat injuries that do occur, as well as rehabilitate patients to return to their active lifestyle. Athletic trainers represent a small group of health care professionals that get to oversee, serve, and protect their patients in all phases of participation – normal activity, injury, rehabilitation, and return to play.
Where are athletic trainers employed?
Here is an athletic trainer interesting fact: despite the name, athletic trainers treat many patients who may not be traditional athletes. Athletic trainers support many active professionals, including military personnel, performing artists, and public safety employees. They are also employed in rehabilitation clinics, orthopedic surgery offices, and rural hospitals. Wherever you find active populations, chances are you’ll also find an athletic trainer supporting their active lifestyle.
What are some reasons people choose athletic training as a career?
Here at the University of Idaho, we hear many different stories that have brought our students to an athletic training career. Some were injured athletes who lacked an advocate and rehabilitation services, and they wanted to prevent other athletes from going through that experience. Others enjoy working with a relatively young, active, and healthy population. Some enjoy the glamor and limelight of professional athletics. When compared to other healthcare professions, athletic trainers often develop strong rapport with their patients, and see them frequently over long periods of time. Some of our students thrive in those relationships and watching their patients grow over time.
What are the daily tasks of an athletic trainer?
This question is difficult to answer, as athletic trainers can be found in so many different professional settings. To best answer this question, let’s look at a day in the life for two imaginary athletic trainers, Phil and Rachel.
Phil is a personable guy who’s been working with The Stingrays, a professional sports team, for five years now. During the regular season, he travels with the team and is always on-call. His average day starts at 7am, when he arrives at the clinic and starts getting the equipment and supplies ready. When the athletes arrive, he helps them prepare for practice or competition in various ways, taping wrists and ankles, leading dynamic warm-ups, and providing treatment and rehabilitation services. At the end of the day, he is usually the last to pack up, getting the clinic ready for the next day and doing his paperwork well after the athletes have left for the night. His days are long but rewarding. Phil loves how his job lets him see the country with his team, as well as developing a strong connection with the players and support staff of The Stingrays.
Rachel is a lively person who has been working with the Ponderosa Corporation’s manufacturing facility for three years. Most of her time is spent on injury prevention. She has a morning habit of walking the manufacturing floor, watching how the employees move and complete their daily tasks. She asks herself “How can we change these movements to minimize risk of injury or fatigue?” After her morning walk, she returns to her office for her “computer work,” such as designing wellness education modules, advising the corporate office on new equipment and practices that could reduce strain on employees, as well as chairing the safety committee. She spends her afternoons in the on-site clinic, where she sees patients. She provides some treatment on-site, as well as writing referrals to for specialists or imaging. Rachel’s schedule is very predictable and does not involve travel. Rachel loves how she can help her patients stay healthy and happy in their manufacturing careers.
What education is needed to be an athletic trainer?
At present, a Masters of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) degree from an accredited school is needed to qualify to sit for the Board of Certification (BOC) exam. After the successful completion of the exam, a student qualifies for licensure. After licensure, an athletic trainer who wants to continue their clinical education may opt for a Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) degree. The University of Idaho created the nation’s first DAT, and is still one of the few who offer this advanced clinical degree. A practitioner may choose this route to improve their patient care or prepare for roles in education or leadership.
What are some challenges faced by athletic trainers?
Although athletic training can be a very rewarding career, there are some big challenges also. Here are some that we hear about at the University of Idaho:
Due to the busy nature of athletic training, a common challenge is maintaining an appropriate work-life balance. For example, an athletic trainer for a small high school may be responsible for all the athletes over all the school’s teams. It can be a struggle for a single athletic trainer to be present at every practice and game for each of the different sports, and there are certainly evenings and weekends involved. In another example, if you read over Phil’s imaginary life above, you can assume he’s not home having dinner with his wife and kids very often. For some, this is a no-brainer for the benefits involved in their position. For others, a position with more predictable hours may be a better fit.
Funding and Staffing
Although there is a growing recognition of the benefits of on-staff athletic trainers, sometimes funding does not keep up with demand. For an athletic trainer, it may be difficult to hire additional staff or purchase the equipment they need to provide the best care.
What are some interesting athletic trainer facts?
In closing, here are some interesting facts about athletic trainers:
1. There are more than 58,000 certified athletic trainers around the world.
2. An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) study found that the presence of athletic trainers can have a significant positive impact on student athlete health, resulting in lower injury rates, improved diagnosis and return-to-play decisions for injuries such as concussion, and fewer recurrent injuries.
3. Athletic training education follows a medical model that includes clinical rotations. Here at the University of Idaho, our students complete a minimum cumulative total of 900 clinical education hours over the course of their two-year degree.
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about athletic trainers! Here at the University of Idaho, we care about athletic training, fostering our students into being the best clinicians they can be, and pushing the profession to be its best self. If we didn’t answer your athletic training question here, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!