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Athletic Trainers as Healthcare Professionals

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March is here, and that means it is National Athletic Training Month! You might be asking yourself what an Athletic Trainer (AT) is exactly. There is a good chance you have seen one of us in action while watching a professional sports team perform. You frequently see us donning khaki pants, polo shirts and a fanny pack and running onto the field or court to aid injured athletes. This however, is just one of the many duties and appearances ATs take on.

ATs are skilled healthcare professionals with a diverse education that must meet the requirements of the Board of Certification, Inc., while also working under the requirements put forth by state licensing boards. The title of AT often leads to a misunderstanding of the role ATs play as part of the health care team.

There is a common misconception that ATs and personal trainers are one and the same. While the titles may sound similar, there are several key differences including educational requirements, certification procedures, work settings and standards of professional practice.

ATs work collaboratively with physicians and must graduate from an accredited baccalaureate or master’s degree program. Educational programs include coursework in prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and various medical conditions. Students graduating from an accredited athletic training program must also pass a comprehensive exam to earn the credential, Athletic Trainer Certified (ATC).

As a result of our wide range of training, ATs function in a number of roles and practice in numerous work environments. ATs are frequently employed in the following settings:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Hospitals and Clinics
  • Occupational Health
  • Military
  • Performing Arts
  • Physician Extender
  • Professional Sports
  • Public Safety
  • Secondary Schools

It is the vast skill set ATs posses that enable us to perform duties far beyond what is frequently seen on the sidelines of athletic contests. ATs spend much of their time behind the scenes doing the following:

  • performing injury evaluations
  • working with athletes to create individualized rehabilitation plans
  • coordinating medical care with physicians
  • executing injury prevention programs
  • thoroughly documenting all of the work performed along the way

One of the most rewarding experiences for many ATs, myself included, is guiding an athlete from the moment they initially sustain an injury to the point where they can return to competition. Our hearts ache when we see one of our own suffer an injury. But with this challenge comes the opportunity to support our athletes through the often mentally and physically grueling healing process. ATs are far more than health care professionals with an endless collection of khakis and polo shirts. We are a “jack of all trades” type of profession that thrive under pressure and live to see our athletes return to the activities they love.


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