What is an Athletic Trainer?
National Athletic Training month is coming to a close, and to wrap things up, we at Event Medical Group would like to introduce you to the various amazing skills and talents of Athletic Trainers.
Athletic Trainers (ATs) are defined by the National Athletic Training Association as, “highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.” But what does that mean?
ATs are highly qualified because they are required to attend an accredited undergraduate and/or graduate degree program. In order to ensure that all ATs are qualified, the profession is currently transitioning to a Master’s degree profession and all new Athletic Trainers will attain a graduate degree starting in 2022. Currently, 70% of ATs have a Master’s degree.
An accredited program must educate students on specific competencies that include subjects like “Evidence-Based Practices, Prevention and Health Administration, Clinical Examination and Diagnosis, Acute Care of Injury and Illness, Therapeutic Interventions, Psychosocial Strategies and Referral, Healthcare Administration, and Professional Development and Responsibility.” (https://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/competencies_5th_edition.pdf) During their education, all prospective ATs also complete supervised hours with patients in a variety of settings including professional, collegiate, and high school sports as well physical therapy clinics, physician’s offices and occupational settings. After they have finished their program, all ATs take and pass the Board of Certification Exam. Once they are certified, most states including Utah require state licensure. The learning never stops either! Athletic Trainers are required to submit 50 continuing education credits every 2 years, with at least 10 credits coming from Evidence Based Practice opportunities. Since Athletic Trainers are highly educated and uniquely qualified, the American Medical Association (AMA), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) all recognize athletic training as an allied health profession.
The definition of Athletic Trainer provided by the NATA shows some of the skills Athletic Trainers possess. Not only are ATs prepared to deal with prevention, evaluation, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries, they are also educated and trained in strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology, general illness, and pharmacology.
Athletic trainers may be seen taping ankles at lightning speed, treating a sprained knee, and evaluating a concussion, yet most ATs are like icebergs. You will rarely see all that the Athletic Trainer is doing. They are hygiene machines, making sure all surfaces and equipment are clean and safe to use. They are talented observers, whether it is watching the gait pattern of a patient or scanning the field to make sure everyone is on their feet and ok to play; they are meteorologists, monitoring the weather to ensure the safety of everyone on the field; and they are counselors, attending to the emotional state of every patient.
The education and training of athletic trainers allows them to merge the gaps between many professions and help allow a seamless continuum of care. ATs are put in the unique position of knowing their patients before, during, and after injuries.
In traditional athletic settings and even some occupational settings, an Athletic Trainer sees a patient through the entire process. Having an integrated prevention, evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation vision streamlines patient care, even when other professionals are included in the plan. ATs recognize that they are part of a team, and know how to make appropriate patient referrals when they cannot meet all of a patient’s needs.
Athletic Trainers, like all health professionals, are special people. They often work long hours, receive little recognition, and continue to serve others with a smile. It is hard to wrap up what an AT is in one post. Every AT I know is different and brings their own expertise to the table. We all have different experiences to draw from, and we are all focused on taking care of those around us. ATs deserve a thank you, but even the month dedicated to the profession focuses on others. The National Athletic Training Month 2017’s slogan is “Your protection is our priority,” and I don’t know of any profession that internalizes this message as much as Athletic Trainers do.
Happy National Athletic Training Month from our community of Athletic Trainers at Event Medical Group!