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What is an Athletic Trainer?

An athletic trainer is an allied health professional who works under the direction of a licensed physician to provide healthcare to the athletic population.  Athletic trainers are trained in prevention of injuries, recognition and evaluation of injuries, management and treatment of injuries, rehabilitation, and organization and administrative duties. 



Athletic trainers must graduate from a CAATE (Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education) approved program.  These programs typically have a minimum number of hands on supervised clinical hours for the students prior to graduation.  Athletic trainers must maintain CPR and first aid certifications, and successfully pass the NATA-BOC exam (the national certification exam). Most states also require an athletic trainer to hold a state license in order to practice in that state.  Currently 49 of the 50 states require a state license to ensure athletic trainers are practicing in accordance with the state laws, Rhode Island does have state licensure. In addition athletic trainers must also maintain their certifications by obtaining continuing education credits.

Core Competencies:

In order to provide health care services in a safe manner, athletic trainers obtain skills known as core competencies.  These are broken down into 5 domains:

  1. Promoting Injury and illness prevention and wellness- athletic trainers promote wellness and prevention through education to the athlete and surrounding community.  ATs use injury reduction strategies and prevention programs to reduce the likely hood of injury.

  2. Examination, Assessment, and Diagnosis- athletic trainers utilize evidence based practice to assess and diagnose an injury when they occur.  ATs utilize their knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, pathology and patient history to diagnose and/or refer out for additional testing or imaging.

  3. Immediate and Emergency Care- athletic trainers are trained to handle a variety of injuries and illnesses.  These injuries can range from minor to life-threatening conditions.  ATs react immediately to these situations and provide immediate care that can save a life.

  4. Therapeutic Intervention- athletic trainers play a key role in getting athlete back on the field as quickly as possible by rehabilitating and reconditioning injuries.  They utilize therapeutic exercises, modality devices, and manual therapy techniques to facilitate healing and strengthening returning the athlete back to pre-injury levels.

  5. Healthcare Administration and Professional Responsibility- athletic trainers adhere to a high level of ethical and professional standards.  This includes documentation of injury assessments, rehabilitation sessions, and maintain continuing education standards set by the Board of Certification.

Employment Opportunities:

Athletic trainers have a variety of skills that allow them to practice in a variety of settings these include:

  • Secondary Schools

  • College and Universities

  • Professional Teams

  • PT clinics with outreach

  • Performing Arts

  • Occupational Health

  • Physician Practices

  • Armed Forces

  • Emerging Settings

  • Health Care Admin/Rehab

Injuries and Illnesses:

Athletic trainers are trained to care for a variety of injuries and illnesses these include:

  • Orthopedic Injuries

  • Exertional Sickling

  • Heat stroke and other Heat Illnesses

  • Concussions

  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Other Cardiac Emergencies

  • Infectious Diseases

  • Diabetic Episodes

  • Environmental and Weather-Related Health Conditions

  • Dental and Oral Injuries

  • Skin Conditions

  • Mental Health

  • Eating Disorders

  • And more!

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