In 2011 Sue Falsone was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers to be their Head Athletic Trainer, a major milestone for women in athletic training. Falsone is the first female Head Athletic Trainer not only for Major League Baseball, but in all of men’s professional sports. Hopefully her promotion is a positive sign for women in athletic training with aspirations of working with major professional teams.
The National Athletic Trainers’ Association was founded in 1950. For many years athletic training was, however unintentional, a male only profession. The first woman passed her board examination in 1972, and in 1976 the first woman joined the U.S. Olympic medical staff as an athletic trainer. In the 1990’s the NATA developed a task force to address the topic of women’s involvement in the profession. It wasn’t until 2000, a full fifty years after the formation of the association, that the NATA elected its first female president.
Currently the NATA is composed of around 30,000 athletic trainers, and half are women. With numbers like that it is perplexing that there are not more women working at the professional level. In traditional male professional sports- basketball, hockey, football and baseball, women are rarely seen in full time medical positions. The NFL hired a woman, Arika Iso, in 2002 as an Assistant Athletic Trainer and two women have been employed full time by the NBA also as Assistant Athletic Trainers. Such is not the case in women’s professional sports, as 70% of ATCs working in the WNBA are female.
Many veterans of male professional sports are resistant to adding women to the medical team. Many old stadiums are not amenable to women, as the athletic training room may be located inside the locker room. While this is a justifiable temporary reason, it is not a long term excuse. I argue that ATCs are allied health professionals, fully trained in what they do regardless of gender. This makes the situation no different than seeing a doctor or nurse of the other gender. A 2004 study at Wilmington College presented athletes with 12 scenarios. In 11 of the 12 situations athletes responded that they had no preference on the gender of the athletic trainer treating them, and when they expressed preference they preferred a female ATC. A 2010 study addressed Division 1 NCAA football players’ perceptions of female athletic trainers. It was found that for general injuries, most athletes had no preference. Male ATCs were preferred for sex-specific injuries, and female ATCs were preferred for psychological conditions. While these studies do not address the views of professional athletes, based on responses it can be presumed that there would be little or no preference.
As the field of athletic training continues to grow, hopefully the presence of women working in male professional sports will as well. For more information on the athletic training profession please visit my previous post, http://doublegsports.com/2013/03/06/every-body-needs-an-athletic-trainer, or visit the NATA’s website, www.nata.org.
O’Connor C, Grappendorf H, Burton L, Harmon S, Henderson A, Peel J. National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Football Players’ Perceptions of Women in the Athletic Training Room Using a Role Congruity Framework. Journal of Athletic Training.2010;45(4):386-391
Wilmington College, Ohio: “The Equality Given to Female Athletic Trainers by their Male Athletes”; M. Iwanski and E. Smith-Goodwin