What Do Athletic Trainers Do? Facts vs. Fictions

Athletic trainer wraps and treats injured knee

Athletic Trainers (AT) are absolutely essential to the health and wellness of athletes worldwide. Athletes come to depend on their ATs not just as medical professionals, but as someone they can go to and trust, and have a long and ongoing relationship with. It’s safe to say that any sports medicine team would simply be incomplete without a dedicated AT!

However, what an AT is and what they do is often incredibly misunderstood! Seeing as March is Athletic Training Month, we decided to debunk some of the common myths or falsehoods that tend to be said about ATs.

Fiction: ATs only work for school sports teams and professional sports organizations

Fact: Athletic Trainers are often seen as only being part of professional or established sports teams, when in reality, over 50% of ATs work in a setting other than a school. ATs work in a variety of settings, including physician offices, clinics, high schools, colleges and universities, commercial settings or professional sports teams. ATs can even be found working in certain branches of the military, and in emergency service departments such as police or fire departments.

ATs are absolutely essential members of any sports medicine team, and are responsible for protecting the health and safety of their patients... no matter the setting!

Fiction: ATs just stand on the sidelines filling water bottles or handing out ice packs
Athletic trainer quickly rushes from sidelines to help injured horseback rider


Fact: Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that all ATs do is hand out ice, or tape ankles or even just fill water bottles. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Although icing or taping may be part of the prescribed treatment that the AT recommends to their patients, it is far from the only thing that they do! ATs are medical professionals who are trusted with all elements of their patients’ care, from assessing an injury and prescribing the treatment, to performing the treatment and much more.

According to the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), “athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions....” A far cry from simply being there to fill the water bottles!

Fiction: It doesn’t take a lot of education to become an AT

Fact: Becoming an AT is not an easy road. ATs are medical professionals, and must undergo a rigorous education. First, they must complete a Bachelor’s degree at a CAATE-accredited college, after which they must take a Board of Certification (BOC) exam, covering everything they learned in their bachelor’s. The majority of states require ATs to successfully pass this BOC exam in order to practice. ATs often don’t stop their education there. In fact, 70% of Certified ATs have a Master’s Degree! What’s more is that every two years, ATs must complete 50 Continuing Education Units to maintain their BOC certification!  

Athletic Trainers have a lot of responsibility, and are qualified medical professionals - their education must be ongoing and enriched in order to guarantee the health and safety of their patients!

Fiction: ATs aren’t necessary if there are other medical professionals, like doctors or nurses present

Fact: When it comes to managing an athlete’s health, there are subtle details that a doctor may not be able to pick up that an AT can. A seasoned AT can pick out subtle changes and know when an athlete is not themselves, as they work with them day in and day out! This is particularly important when it comes to returning to play after a suspected concussion, as concussion assessment is most consistent and effective if it is continuously performed by one sole individual.

The Bottom Line: ATs are Essential!

The bottom line is this: ATs are absolutely essential to a sports medicine team. They are not simply on the sidelines taping up injuries, and they manage the health and safety of their patients each and every single day.

What Makes An AT Successful?

Now that we’ve debunked some common myths and fictions about ATs, let’s get down to what makes them the best at what they do! You may remember this from our post, 5 Qualities of Successful Athletic Trainers. In that post, we cite the following as being key attributes of the best ATs:

  1. Good Communication Skills - Of course, this is essential to any profession - but it’s especially important for ATs. If an AT is able to build a good rapport with their athletes, they can be more successful in treating them and getting them through rehabilitation.
  2. Honesty & Trustworthiness - ATs possess highly confidential information about athlete health - trust is absolutely imperative here. Not to mention, honesty is the foundation of any good relationship - which is essential for an AT and an athlete to share!
  3. Good Decision Making Skills - ATs are right on the sidelines, usually the first to respond to emergency situations. A good AT can think on their feet and determine a best course of action quickly and effectively.
  4. Compassion - An injury can be absolutely devastating to an athlete, especially if it ends their season. The best ATs are empathetic and realize how difficult recovery can be.
  5. They’re Prepared For Anything - The best ATs are always prepared with emergency plans and supplies for any situation. 

Thank You ATs!…

Women's volleyball team celebrates a safe and healthy victory with the help of their sports medicine team

… For keeping our athletes strong, healthy and successful in the sports that they love! On behalf of everyone here at Presagia Sports, we just wanted to say that we appreciate what you do each and every day! Happy Athletic Training Month!