Over the last 50 years, a specialist has emerged on the scene who is totally dedicated to the quality health care of the physically active person... the Certified Athletic Trainer. Historically associated with college and professional athletics, the Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) of today has become prominent in the high school, outpatient rehabilitation centers, corporate fitness, and youth sport settings. Certified Athletic Trainers are health care professionals specialized in the prevention, evaluation, and rehabilitation of athletic injuries. Athletic Trainers contribute to a cost-efficient health care system by emphasizing injury prevention and injury evaluations that prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room. Through aggressive rehabilitation, they focus on restoring the patient's good health and return to activity.
As part of a complete health care team, the Certified Athletic Trainer works under the direction of a licensed physician and in cooperation with other health care professionals, athletics administrators, coaches, and parents to prevent, recognize, manage, and rehabilitate injuries that result from physical activity. An ATC's day may include: preparing athletes for practice or competition (i.e. taping, bracing, bandaging), evaluating injuries to determine their management and possible referral, and developing conditioning and rehabilitation programs to safely return athletes back to participation.
Certified Athletic Trainers can be found almost anywhere people are physically active. Here are some common places you will find Athletic Trainers: secondary schools, colleges and universities, professional sports, sports medicine clinics, military services, physical clinics, industrial and commercial businesses.
Students who want to become certified athletic trainers must earn a degree from an accredited athletic training curriculum and meet the requirements set by the Board of Certification. Education programs include formal instruction in areas such as: Injury/illness prevention, First Aid and Emergency care, Assessment of Injury/illness, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Therapeutic Modalities, and Nutrition. Classroom learning is enhanced through clinical education experiences in a variety of health care settings. More than 70 percent of certified athletic trainers hold a Master's Degree or higher.
After candidates have met the curriculum requirements, they must pass a three-part certification exam. The sections of the exam are: written, written simulation, and practical. Those who pass the exam are certified and retain certification as long as they meet the continuing education requirements. Continuing education requirements are meant to ensure that ATCs stay current in the advancements of athletic training and continue to develop skills and techniques.
Athletic Trainers are highly qualified, multi-skilled allied health care professionals, and have been part of the American Medical Association's Health Professions Career and Education Directory for more than a decade. Additionally, the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine are all strong clinical and academic supporters of athletic trainers.
While practice act oversight varies by state, the athletic trainer practices under state statute recognizing them as a health care professional similar to physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other mid-level professionals. Athletic Training license/regulation currently exists in 43 states with emphasis on obtaining licensure in the remaining states.