National Athletic Training Month is held every March in order to spread awareness about the important work of the Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs). What many people think of as Sports Medicine is actually Athletic Training. In short, the profession of Athletic Training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic athletic injuries.
They work closely with physicians and other healthcare providers such as a Physical Therapist (PT) in order to provide unique, efficient and responsive healthcare to the community. Athletic trainers are integral members of the health care team in secondary schools, colleges and universities, professional sports programs, sports medicine clinics, hospitals, corporate /industrial, and other health care settings.
The American Medical Association (AMA) first recognized Athletic Trainers as an allied healthcare profession in 1991. Since then, many other national healthcare organization such as the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have acknowledged the importance of ATCs in the field of healthcare.
To become an ATC, one must first graduate from an accredited baccalaureate or master’s program in athletic training. While in college, the individual will be expected to complete a rigorous program that entails a combination of formal classroom and clinical instruction and clinical experience. They will then have to pass a national board exam and in most cases become licensed by the state department of health. Once these criteria have been met, the athletic trainer is prepared to provide health care within each of the following content areas:
• Risk management and injury prevention
• Pathology of injuries and illnesses
• Clinical examination and diagnosis
• Acute care of injury and illness
• Therapeutic modalities
• Therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise
• General medical conditions and disabilities
• Nutritional aspects of injury and illness
• Psychosocial intervention and referral
• Health care administration
• Professional development and responsibilities
Are Certified Athletic Trainers the same as a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach?
Despite being a recognized allied health care profession for almost three decades, the profession of athletic training is often miss-understood. Many people compare Athletic Trainers to personal trainers or strength coaches. This is understandable as the profession does bear the name “athletic training”. However, these professions are much more different than you think. In short, ATCs don’t train athletes. As described above, they are healthcare providers who provide care for both athletes and non-athletes alike.
As noted earlier, The ATC must go through a rigorous education program and pass a national exam. Personal trainers, on the other hand, are fitness professionals and NOT healthcare professionals. There is little or no regulation of their professional practice and there are very few requirements to obtain a personal training credential (some of which can be obtained with as little as a weekend course). The only similarity between Athletic Trainers and personal trainers is that both work with athletes, but our jobs are very different.
Where can you find a Certified Athletic Trainer
Fortunately, the Physical Rehabilitation Department at Forks Community Hospital does have a Certified Athletic Trainer on staff, in addition to its physical therapy and occupational therapy staff.
Aaron Gee PT, DPT, MA, ATC, CSCS
Disclaimer: This column is not intended as a diagnosis or recommended treatment of a specific condition. Answers are not a replacement for an individual medical evaluation. Individual health concerns should be evaluated by a licensed clinician.