March is National Athletic Training Month, designed to promote awareness and knowledge of the athletic training profession. Not only athletes can benefit from the profession and this year’s theme, “Every Body Needs an Athletic Trainer,” stresses just that.
The United States population is increasingly becoming more active, and injury rates are rising as a result. Athletic Trainers are educated to work with both recreational and professional athletes, as well as people with physically demanding jobs. With a focus on the athletic population, ATs are medical professionals that work to return individuals not only to daily activities post-injury, but to their full potential in athletics as well.
In addition to rehabilitating injuries, Athletic Trainers specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of athletic injuries and illnesses. ATs are trained to treat both acute and chronic injuries, as well as develop proper prevention programs. Not only educated on musculoskeletal injuries, ATs are qualified to respond to emergency situations. Athletics can produce life threatening circumstances such as; head traumas, spinal cord injuries, and dangerous conditions like heat illness and ATs are educated to respond quickly and effectively. With most life threatening injuries and illnesses, response time is incredibly important. Having a trained professional ready to respond on-site will greatly increase the athlete’s chance of survival.
Because of ATs expertise with responding to injuries, they are a necessity to any location where sports take place. ATs assume the responsibility of managing injuries, a job many professionals in athletics may have a conflict of interest with or are unqualified for. Having a professional on site to manage injuries, instead of always sending to the hospital, saves costs. Cost effectiveness aside, ATs are invaluable allied health professionals that are incredibly trained and educated on sports medicine. Working under the supervision of physicians, ATs do not focus solely on fitness as trainers do, but on the well-being of the athlete as a whole.
The profession of Athletic Training has many requirements to maintain the ability to practice. A current AT has graduated from an accredited baccalaureate or master’s program and has passed a comprehensive exam. In addition to practicing under a physician, an AT must follow the criteria set by state licensure guidelines and/or the Board of Certification. Practicing ATs maintain certification by keeping up to date CPR/AED/First Aid credentials and earning credits for continuing education. There are currently approximately 30,000 ATs practicing, but only about half of high schools in the United States have access to one. As awareness of the profession grows, there should also be an increase in understanding how indispensable ATs are to the athletic population. If you are interested in pursuing Athletic Training as a career or are just looking to learn more, visit the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s website at www.nata.org. A brief profile of the profession can also be found at http://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/Profiles-of-Athletic-Trainers.pdf.