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Certified Athletic Trainer

Updated on June 30, 2014

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What is a Certified Athletic Trainer?

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Every March is National Athletic Training Month
Every March is National Athletic Training Month | Source

What is a Certified Athletic Trainer?

In a nutshell a Certified Athletic Trainer is an Allied Healthcare Professional. Athletic trainers work in a variety of settings from high schools to professional sports teams to physical therapy clinics and anywhere in between. To become a certified athletic trainer you must earn a bachelor's from an accredited athletic training program. There are entry level master's programs that have to be approved in the same way a bachelor's program is accredited. After we complete our education we then have to take a comprehensive exam before we can become an athletic trainer. We also are required to have 50 continuing education hours per reporting period (reporting period is 2 years).

Most people think athletic trainers just tape athletes' injuries or that we are personal trainers. An athletic trainer does so much more than that. We provide physical medicine and rehabilitation services. We prevent, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate both chronic and acute injuries. We coordinate the care of our patients with many healthcare providers including but not limited to doctors, physical therapists, and orthopedic surgeons.

Athletic trainers can be found everywhere, including the military setting.
Athletic trainers can be found everywhere, including the military setting. | Source

Where Do Athletic Trainers Work?

As perviously stated athletic trainers work in a variety of settings. An athletic trainer can work with a doctor as a physician extender. A physician extender is similar to a physician assistant in that they can take a history and perform a basic orthopedic evaluation. A physician assistant can do much more than a physician extender and the two should not be confused.

An athletic trainer can work in an industrial setting. Here the athletic trainer can evaluate injuries sustained on the job and treat them. Many times the athletic trainer can save the employer money by triaging whether the injured person needs to go to the doctor or simple strengthening and stretching can resolve the issue. Working in this setting, for every dollar invested in preventative care the employer can see a return on the investment of up to seven dollars. Athletic trainers can also help make the work environment more ergonomic to help reduce the likelihood of injuries.

Why Are They Called Athletic Trainer?

Originally athletic trainers worked with athletes in the college setting. Athletic Trainers' embrace their heritage by continuing to use this name. Athletic trainers started with and continuing to work with athletes as well as many other populations.

What is an Athletic Trainer

Athletic Training Education

When studying the profession of athletic training students are required to understand a variety of educational content areas.

One area is risk management and injury prevention. Here the athletic trainer can look at different components like field conditions, weather conditions, and training programs.

Another area is pathology of injuries and illnesses. As an athletic trainer we have to understand how injuries occur before we can prevent or treat the injury. The same goes with illnesses. As an athletic trainer we identify a variety of skin diseases and suggest the appropriate medical professional to go to for treatment.

Orthopedic clinical examination and diagnosis teaches athletic trainers to assess orthopedic injures through a history, symptoms, muscle tests, and special orthopedic tests that isolate specific anatomical structures' integrity.

Athletic trainers' use a multitude of therapeutic modalities. A therapeutic modality can be ice, heat, ultrasound, massage, and interferential current, just to name a few. With these tools at our disposal we can properly treat an athlete, limit secondary damage due to swelling, and return a patient to pre-injury status in a quicker manner than without these tools.

Athletic trainers' have to know the conditioning and rehabilitative techniques that are specific to a sport. An athletic trainer needs to know not only the biomechanics of a sport in general but also, the biomechanics of individual positions to better return an athlete back to the game field confident that the athlete is in the conditioning needed to compete. The athletic trainer also needs to know when to refer a patient to a doctor for further evaluation.

Athletic trainers' need to know the basics of pharmacology. The athletic trainer needs to know that certain ADD medication increase a person's likelihood of dehydration and heat illness. An athletic trainer needs to know the different mechanisms of aspirin and other anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs work.

Acute care of injuries and illnesses takes up a large portion of an athletic trainer's day. here we assess and take care any acute injury ranging from lacerations to broken femurs and anywhere in between.

Psychosocial intervention and referral the athletic trainer learns the common signs and symptoms of the eating disorders and common psychological disorders. we are not trained to treat these but we do help the athlete get the appropriate medical treatment.

Finally, as with any healthcare professional, are trained to maintain the appropriate paperwork associated with an athlete. We also maintain the records for the equipment we use and supply levels.

More information can be found here.


Differences Between Athletic Trainers & Personal Trainers

Before I begin my section on personal trainers I want to make it clear that there are reputable certifications and very qualified individuals who are amazing at what they do.

That being said there are many certifications out there that are what I like to call fly by night scam certifications. These "scam" certifications do not require a college degree or continuing education. These certifications also may not require the personal trainer to take a comprehensive exam. There also may not be a state regulatory commission that would help to maintain a consistent quality of personal trainers. The best programs require a degree in the health sciences and continuing education to earn and maintain their certification, respectively. Just ask a personal trainer what their certification is and do a little homework. If the certification they hold is a reputable one they will have no issue having you look it up.

Does your high school have an athletic trainer?

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To Summarize

Athletic trainers are highly skilled and educated health care professionals. They have skills and education ranging from emergency care to long term rehabilitation. Over 70% of athletic trainers have a masters degree or higher. All athletic trainers have to pass the same certification exam no matter where they went to school or which state they intend on practicing in.

All information was gathered from the NATA website.

© 2013 Trainer Joe


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