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What is an Athletic Trainer?What is an Athletic Trainer?

This may seem like a very easy answer, but surprisingly many people do not understand what an athletic trainer is. The National Athletic Trainer's Association terms an Athletic Trainer as:

An American Medical Association allied health care professional in preventing, recognizing, managing, and rehabilitating injuries that result from physical activity. Athletic Trainers can help avoid unnecessary medical treatment and disruption of normal daily life. (www.nata.org)

The athletic trainer does so much more than simply taping ankles and filling water bottles. They are the primary medical provider of athletic teams all over the world. They work in conjunction with a licensed physician to ensure the safety of physically active individuals. It is in the best interest of the athlete to work with the same athletic trainer(s) on a daily basis. By doing this, both the athletic trainer and the athlete are able to form a relationship that makes evaluating and treating athletes more effectively. The athletic trainer works with all areas of the athletic team, including coaches, administrators, parents, and other medical professionals to help in the treatment and overall care of athletes.

An athletic trainer's day may change from day to day and even hour to hour. The unexpected may happen at anytime on any given day so an Athletic trainer must prepare for the worst at all times. Preparation is a major duty for an athletic trainer for practice or competition. What does it take to be an Athletic Trainer?

An individual that strives to be an athletic trainer must complete a series of milestones before he/she is capable of athletic training duties. They first must earn a degree from an accredited athletic training curriculum. They must successfully pass formal instructional classes in the field of athletic training. Some of these include:

  • Prevention of athletic injuries and illness
  • Therapeutic Modalities
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Administration of Athletic Training
  • Pharmacology
  • Kinesiology/Biomechanics

A student athletic trainer must complete the necessary requirements to sit for the National Athletic Trainer's Association Board of Certification (NATABOC) Exam. This is a three-part exam that the student is required to pass before they are permitted to work as an athletic trainer. Some of the requirements include 1500 hours of clinical competency hours within two years. Once the athletic trainer has passed the NATABOC exam and earned a degree in Athletic Training (or approved degree) they are considered a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).

Once the athletic trainer is certified they maintain their certification by meeting continuing education requirements as set by the NATABOC. This includes meetings, workshops, adherence to the NATABOC standards of professional practice, and yearly renewal of CPR and first-aid certification.

Certain states also require the athletic trainer to meet state licensure and regulation requirements before they are qualified to practice athletic training in that respective state.

Aside from the knowledge base that a person must have to be an athletic trainer there are certain characteristics that helps a person to be more successful at their profession as an athletic trainer. Some of these qualities include flexibility (to schedule and personalities), empathy, patience, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and even-tempered. Most importantly, the individual is a good listener and has the ability to react to a situation while maintaining a strong controlled attitude.

The National Athletic Trainers Association:

The National Athletic Trainer's Association is the binding organization for certified athletic trainer's. It is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the athletic training profession. Interestingly, the first NATA organization was formed right here at Drake University in 1938 at the Drake Relays. The Drake Relays also was the meeting spot for the Western Division's annual meetings. The NATA has gone through numerous changes since 1938 and continues to make efforts to enhance the athletic training profession.

The National Athletic Trainer's Association has made commitments to increasing the number of athletic training positions, making the profession diversified in both racial, gender, and nationality issues. The NATA continues to make efforts to enhance the profession in the eyes of the general public, hopefully bringing to light the benefits that athletic trainers can bring to high schools and other arenas.

One of the major struggles in this fight is the lack of funding for an athletic trainer or program. While money may be tight, athletic trainers also can pay for themselves and their programs over the course of time. The presence of athletic trainers can decrease medical bills for injuries that could have been prevented or treated by an athletic trainer. Sources will say that many future problems could be avoided if an athletic trainer were available at the time of initial injury decreasing cost and the possibility of a more dramatic injury later in the athlete's sports career. They also can be useful in many other ways; athletic trainers spend much of their time getting to know the athletes on a more personal level. Many times, the athletic trainer serves as a source of support or to vent frustration to, which is a major issue for the injured athlete.

6 Domains of Athletic Training

The Drake Athletic Training Staff follows the six domains of athletic training, given by the National Athletic Trainers Association, to guide us in the care of athletes. These domains are the core of every athletic trainer's job. These domains are necessary to ensure that the athletic trainer is properly providing care to the student- athlete.

  1. Prevention of InjuryPrevention of Injury

    The prevention of injury is the first step to dealing with athletes. Steps can be put in place to help avoid injury. There are areas that each athletic trainer must be very knowledgeable in to prevent an injury if possible. There are a number of tasks that can be performed to eliminate injury if possible. Some examples are pre-participation screenings, education of sport specific equipment, communication skills, and proper knowledge of nutrition and other aspects of health.

    Recognition, Evaluation and Assessment

  2. Recognition, Evaluation, and Assessment

    An athletic trainer must possess the skill to recognize, evaluate, and assess athletic injuries in order to care for them properly. This includes the clinical testing and evaluative skills that the athletic trainer takes on during their education. They must be able to apply those skills to the field. There are several tasks that must be mastered before the athletic trainer is qualified to practice.

    Immediate Care

  3. Immediate Care

    When an injury occurs on the field, it is imperative that the athlete can be cared for immediately. It is crucial in emergency situations that the athletic trainers have the ability to execute techniques with knowledge and control.

    Treatment, Rehabilitiona and Reconditioning

  4. Treatment, Rehabilitation, and Reconditioning

    Injuries have a better environment to heal if they are cared for throughout the entire injury process. An athletic trainer must be able to perform treatment of injuries in order to minimize injury time and to allow the injury to heal full capacity. Rehabilitation is also very important to maintain the physical condition of the athlete. This includes maintaining or regaining strength and range of motion of the injured area. Reconditioning of the athlete will allow a faster recovery time and return to the playing field. All of these actions are very important in eliminating the chance of re-injury and speeding the healing process up.


  5. Organization and Administration

    There is much more to being an athletic trainer than simply caring for injuries. The athletic trainer is responsible for much of the emergency action situations that may occur. It is important for the athletic trainer to be prepared for the worst of any situation. This includes having plans in place ahead of time. These include emergency action plans, policies and procedures for safe participation, policies and procedures for facilities and all legal issues. It is also a responsibility of the athletic trainer to understand and comply with all safety and sanitation standards.

  6. Professional Development and Responsibility

    As in every other profession, athletic trainers hold the responsibility to play a part in the professional development for the athletic training profession. This includes doing the necessary work to maintain certification, continue to learn and advance the athletic training profession. It is important for athletic trainers, now more than ever, to education the public on the importance of athletic trainers and our profession. And once again it is the responsibility of the athletic trainer to obey and adhere to all laws and guidelines that impact the athletic training profession.

There are several great athletic training links that can provide a lot of information about the profession of Athletic Training and athletic injuries

Iowa Athletic Trainers Society (IATS)

National Athletic Trainers Society (NATA)
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