Athletic Trainers (ATs) not only play an essential role on the sports medicine team, they’ve also played a crucial role throughout the pandemic. They fought at the forefront of COVID-19, have safely returned athletes back to play and so much more! Given that it’s National Athletic Training Month, we wanted to highlight the importance of ATs and share examples of some of the unexpected settings they work in.
Want more? Check out our blog related to more non-traditional settings ATs work in, Athletic Trainers: From Factory Lines To The Front Lines.
What Do Athletic Trainers Do?
ATs have a variety of tasks, including diagnosing, examining, treating and preventing injuries— both acute and chronic. Their roles are diverse, with their day-to-day responsibilities in flux, from evaluating injuries and applying tape, bandages and braces, to implementing rehabilitation programs for their injured patients.
ATs are usually mistaken for personal trainers, however there’s a huge difference between these two professions in terms of skill set, job duties and education. Personal trainers develop fitness programs, review their client’s progress, and provide them with healthy lifestyle tips. The minimum education required for a personal trainer is a relevant certificate.
ATs are qualified medical professionals who must go through rigorous education. ATs must graduate from an accredited program (70% have graduated with a master’s degree) and complete the Board of Certification (BOC) examination in order to be certified. They also work collaboratively with physicians and other healthcare providers and are often the first medical professionals on the scene of an injury in their field.
Where Do Athletic Trainers Work?
Typically, ATs work in educational settings such as colleges, universities and elementary schools, or for professional sports teams. However, there are many other places where ATs can apply their knowledge and skills. Here are a few atypical examples of where ATs work.
Anyone in the Marine Corps knows how grueling and physically demanding it can be. This isn’t limited to recruits—drill instructors also feel the wear and tear, with the most common injuries being musculoskeletal. ATs help with injury prevention and speed up rehabilitation time. They also plan and monitor workout programs, teach proper stretching and ensure that everyone is hydrated and eats properly.
“My favorite part of my job is when the individual comes in they are distraught about their injury, whether it’s a recruit or Marine, and when they leave you can tell they have a sense of hope.”
-Vincent Mancini, AT (Marine Corps Recruit Parris Island)
ATs have been so effective at the Marine Corps that they have decreased injury wait time from four to two weeks, just by being able to catch an injury in the early stages. Given that Marines are basically elite warriors, it’s crucial to have ATs be a part of their routines.
Unsurprisingly, firefighters face a high risk of developing work-related injuries with the most common being to the back and shoulder. Along with these injuries, firefighters are also prone to cardiac attacks, which can be prevented through lifestyle changes (e.g. diet, exercise, lowering stress levels).
For these reasons, a growing number of fire departments have recognized and implemented ATs as part of their care plans. ATs help with prevention, assessment and rehabilitation programs. They can immediately assess an injury and start treatment, which in turn reduces the number of emergency room visits, and lowers therapy costs. Specifically, ATs have proven to add a return on investment (ROI) for fire departments, including a 50% decrease in lost work days and over $593,000 in cost savings, specifically for the San Antonio Fire Department. Now that’s a win-win!
We already know that astronauts are out of this world, but did you know that candidates go through two years of training before becoming a qualified astronaut? Their physical training includes space walks (which they practice under water in a Neutral Buoyancy Lab) and being weightless. Spending an inordinate amount of time being weightless is no joke, as it accelerates age-related conditions (e.g. osteoporosis), and increases risk of kidney stones and bone fractures.
Since astronauts go through such rigorous training, they need to be in tiptop shape before embarking on a multi-million dollar mission. In order to keep their astronauts in peak physical condition and prevent injuries, NASA works with ATs. To prevent damage caused by training, ATs educate astronauts on how to maintain their bodies for peak physical performance. They also develop exercise and strength training programs for astronauts at each stage of their mission. Once astronauts have returned from a mission, ATs help to restore their physical condition.
It’s incredible how ATs use their expertise and training to aid with the health and performance of so many individuals across various professions, from the Marine Corps and fire departments to astronauts. To support patients in these fields, ATs can utilize an Athlete Electronic Health Record (EHR) like Presagia Sports to keep track of their exposure to injuries, health status, treatment and more! They can even screen for COVID-19 with the COVID-19 Screening Template and Travel Report. Easy-to-use and secure solutions like these allow sports medicine professionals to better manage their patients’ health, so they can be their best in any field, whether it’s on the ground or in outer space!