Who are athletic trainers?

Athletic trainers (ATs) specialize in preventative care. They educate their patients to try to prevent injury or reinjury. They create a plan of care based on what the injury or medical condition is. An athletic trainer may accompany a sports team to a game and see the injury take place. They can provide care from the moment the injury happens through the entire healing process.

Despite what many people think, athletic trainers work with many different people. From athletes to the elderly, athletic trainers are there for all patients. An AT’s goal is to get their patients back to their active lifestyles.

What does an athletic trainer do?

Athletic trainers develop plans to prevent injury and illnesses and optimize patients’ overall health and quality of life. They examine patients in order to diagnose and effectively treat them. ATs assess the patient’s status with a physician and design a rehabilitation program to minimize swelling, control pain, reestablish neuromuscular control, enhance core stability, restore/increase muscular strength, regain range of motion and balance, and maintain levels of cardiorespiratory endurance. During this rehabilitation, athletic trainers use equipment, body movement, medicine, and other techniques.

Athletic trainers can be on the sideline during sporting events, and they must be able to intervene in cases of emergency situations such as concussion, heat stroke, asthma attack, sickle cell crisis, diabetic emergency, spine injury, and sudden cardiac arrest.

Where does an athletic trainer work?

Athletic trainers work in many different settings with a variety of patients. Some of the places you might see an athletic trainer are listed below.

  • Public and private schools, college and universities, professional and Olympic sports
  • Youth leagues
  • Physician practices
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics with specialties in sports medicine, medical fitness, wellness, and physical therapy
  • Occupational health departments
  • Police and fire departments and academies
  • Performing arts

What does it take to become an athletic trainer?

To become an athletic trainer, you must graduate from college with a bachelor’s or master’s degree and pass the certification examination administered by the Board of Certification (BOC). On average it takes 4-6 years of school to become an athletic trainer.

Athletic trainers are sometimes confused with personal trainers. Unlike personal trainers, ATs follow a medical-based education model and are licensed in athletic training.

See the profession from an athletic trainer’s point of view.

Brittany Starr, ATC, works closely with Dr. Jonathan Bernard as part of his team in the clinic and in the operating room. She discusses how physicians and athletic trainers work together, “Whenever you are a part of our practice, you get to see both of us every single time and talk to us with open communication. Every morning we break down what’s happening throughout the day. Everything is done with a team approach.” Brittany’s position is one way that an athletic trainer may see patients.

Hugh Blocker, MS, ATC, an athletic trainer at OrthoVirginia who works in a variety of settings, explains, “Each time someone walks through the door, their needs and injuries are different. Part of the evaluation process is asking what is one thing you want to accomplish most out of your therapy? One of the best parts about helping patients is being able to touch base with people from all walks of life, with different needs and expectations and helping them accomplish their goals.”

Hugh explains the importance of knowing athletic trainers work in settings all around you and they are skilled healthcare professionals that can diagnose an injury and aid in the progression of the injury healing. Being an athletic trainer is more than just working with athletes: it’s helping patients of all ages and backgrounds.