Amidst this uncertain time as we endure a global health pandemic, everyone is under incredible stress and pressure. The world of sports has been impacted greatly, with many events, including the Olympic Games, NCAA March Madness and others being postponed. Individuals with sports-related professions have also been impacted, including Athletic Trainers (AT), but that hasn’t stopped them from being at the forefront. Since March is National Athletic Training Month (NATM), we felt there was no better time than now to honor and celebrate these health care professionals.
Here’s what you need to know about ATs using their unique skill set to help during this pandemic, along with the training and qualities required to become an AT and what settings they work in:
How Are Athletic Trainers Helping During COVID-19?
Even though their profession as a whole is currently impacted, ATs can still assist in other ways. While ATs are not having face-to-face contact with their patients or athletes, they are still remaining in contact virtually. “We’re notorious for being available to our athletes, and we’re going to stay available to our athletes. We’re going to continue to have our impact at these high schools,” says Peter Gray, who works as an AT for Henry Clay Athletic Training. Gray is even writing blog posts providing resources during this pandemic, such as “Simple tips for getting active.”
Going beyond their more customary jobs, some ATs are lending their support by providing medical assistance to hospitals. This could entail screening patients for symptoms of COVID-19, as well as other non-traditional ways, like making respirator covers for health care workers. These covers help extend the life of N95 respirators, which filter out 95% of airborne particles.
To refresh your memory, or in case you’re not familiar with the role of ATs, here is a brief overview:
What Are Athletic Trainers?
ATs are medical professionals who play an essential role on sports medicine teams. ATs help with all aspects of their patient’s care, from preventing, assessing and examining injuries, to providing treatment and rehabilitation.
To become an AT you must graduate from an accredited program by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). While the minimum level of education to become an AT is a bachelor’s degree, more than 70% of ATs have a master’s degree. For ATs to become licensed they must pass an exam from the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC), however, the learning doesn’t stop there, many ATs continue furthering their education in order to stay up to date with current knowledge, skills and abilities.
In addition to formal education, there are certain qualities that make for a successful AT:
- Good communication skills: Working with a variety of athletes and types of individuals in various settings requires the ability to interact with almost any type of person.
- Honesty & trustworthiness: ATs have access to extremely confidential health information about their clients, therefore this quality is of utmost importance. Not only are these qualities essential for legal and ethical concerns, but also important in building relationships.
- Good decision making skills: ATs are the first responders in emergency situations and have to make the right decisions for the short-term and long-term of their patients’’ health.
- Compassion: Sometimes an athlete’s injury could be the end of their career, during these times it’s important for an AT to remain empathetic.
- Being prepared for any situation: At any time, ATs need to be ready to respond and treat a sudden injury.
Where Do Athletic Trainers Work?
While many ATs work for sports teams, that’s not the only place they can practice. ATs have the ability to work in a variety of job settings, from the factory lines to the front lines of the military. Here are some examples of settings ATs work in, that you may not have known about.
- Rodeo: ATs help these athletes in a variety of ways, such as stretching, applying tape and providing them with a treatment plan to recover from injuries. The main objective for ATs in this role is to provide continuous care and educate athletes on prevention.
- Military: ATs who work for the military focus on the health and wellbeing of active duty soldiers and have extensive knowledge about the military. They also provide education on topics such as supplements, injury prevention and the proper fit of boots.
- Industrial and Occupational Settings: Since individuals working in industrial or occupational settings aren’t preparing their fitness levels to match the demands of the job, they can have more musculoskeletal injuries. An AT’s main focus is injury prevention and keeping workers healthy, which is a win-win for everyone (including a company’s bottom line).
- Performing Arts: ATs offer specialized injury prevention and rehabilitative services to help lower the frequency and severity of injuries in these performers. As the saying goes, “the show must go on!”
- Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinics: These clinics differ from outpatient ambulatory clinic settings because they offer more extensive hours (after hours or on weekends) and quick and easy access to orthopedic specialists. In this setting, ATs deliver acute care to patients who suffer from sprains and strains, dislocations, swollen joints, sports-related injuries or anything else involving the musculoskeletal system. ATs are a natural fit here, since they can assist with stabilizing and treating injuries, whether it’s with a splint, cast or any other equipment. One way ATs can track injuries is by using an Athlete Electronic Health Record (EHR) like Presagia Sports. Tracking their patients' health status while using a secure solution enables these healthcare professionals to best manage their patients' recovery and get them back on their feet in no time!
For all the work they normally do on and off the field, and especially now during such a stressful and chaotic time, we want to thank all of the amazing ATs out there. They are truly living up to the NATM 2020 slogan, “ATs impact health care through action!”