What is an Athletic Trainer? Is it the same as a personal trainer?
The short answer is no. Although these two titles sound similar, they actually have very different educational backgrounds, skill sets, and job duties. While personal trainers can help assess fitness needs and design an appropriate fitness program, Athletic Trainers (ATs) are considered allied health professionals which means they must meet all other kinds of qualifications such as:
- ATs must have graduated from an accredited baccalaureate or Master’s program (and about 70% of ATs have a Master’s degree). These programs follow a “medical model” that incorporates classroom style learning as well as hands on clinical rotations, similar to programs associated with Physical Therapy, Nursing, Physician Assistant, etc.
- An AT must pass a board of certification exam upon graduation from their program in order to become certified to practice under the direction of a physician.
- ATs must keep up to date with medical advancements through continuing education courses.
So, What Do They Do?
ATs operate based on 5 major domains:
- Injury/illness prevention
- Evaluation/diagnosis of injuries
- Immediate/emergency care
- Treatment and rehab of injuries
- Organizational/professional health and well being
Essentially, ATs work closely with physicians and other health professionals to provide a well rounded plan of care for their patient. In many ways, what ATs do overlap other professions like Physical Therapy (Domain 4) or EMTs (Domain 3). However, ATs usually specialize in working with more active populations, and a key part of their job is knowing when they have the appropriate equipment and time to help someone vs. when they need to refer out (whether it’s calling an ambulance or sending the patient to a Physical Therapy or Orthopedic Clinic).
What Kind Of Settings Do They Work In?
The AT profession is a young and rapidly growing field. While ATs have pretty much always been recognized as those men/women in khaki pants running onto a football field when an athlete is injured, they have now begun to find a niche in many other settings too. Here are some of the most common places you will find an AT working:
- Professional Sports Teams
- High Schools
- Club Sports
- Physical Therapy Clinics
- Orthopedic Clinics
- Corporations/Occupational Health
- Performing Arts
Is There An AT Present At Your Child’s Sporting Events?
If you have a child playing sports, you may want to look into who is making sure they are safe during participation. Although it’s relatively rare, sudden death and other catastrophic injuries happen in youth sports participation every year. Having an AT onsite means they can recognize and treat these situations immediately. They can work together with Athletic Directors, Administrators, Coaches, etc. to help mitigate sport participation risks by making sure there is a plan and proper equipment in place in case of an emergency. Just think, would you want someone OTHER than an allied health professional to be evaluating your child after suffering a concussion? What about treating them for heatstroke? Managing a spinal injury situation? Or what about reacting quickly enough to revive them from a cardiac emergency!? I sure wouldn’t!
Sports are such an important part of our culture and health, and advocating for the presence of Athletic Trainers will only make them safer!