OPINION: The role of athletic trainers is not what you might think

ClinicalNote: This month is National Athletic Training Month. To help explain the role of athletic trainers in the world, three Central Michigan University students wrote this post for publication in CMU Insider:

By Austin Herman, Don Moran and Nate Saldivar-Garcia

Trainer is a title commonly used in athletic settings, sports medicine clinics and training gyms across the nation, but it is inappropriately used far too often.

In actuality, there are “personal trainers” and “athletic trainers,” and the terminology used for one is not applicable to the other. 

Many people use the term “trainer” and believe it’s synonymous with “athletic trainer.”  However, an athletic trainer’s scope of practice is much different and more encompassing than that of a personal trainer. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association states, “The services provided by ATs comprise prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention/rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.” ATs work under physicians and therefore provide a valuable link in overall care. If a patient needs to be referred to a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon, they will go through the athletic trainer. The duties required of a personal trainer are completely different than that of an athletic trainer.

The focus of personal trainers is to work towards changing people’s fitness levels through exercise, thus changing appearance. They must first persuade possible customers to join the gym that they are employed at. Most of the clients that personal trainers work with are healthy and once the goals are understood, they will implement a customized regimen in order to help the client achieve their goals. They might give some nutritional advice to the client, as well.

Certification requirements are different, too. In order to work as a certified athletic trainer, one must have a bachelor’s degree in an accredited program in addition to passing a comprehensive exam administered by the Board of Certification. This exam tests all knowledge acquired during the course of the athletic training program. Athletic trainers are also educated in emergency situations are the first response in many situations involving injury and illness. They are certified professional rescuers in both CPR and First Aid through the American Red Cross or organizations that are similar.Research

Athletic trainers can now be employed in various clinical and educational settings, including high schools and colleges.

In the research setting, athletic trainers are able to conduct experiments in clinical questions, which would have results applicable to the athletic training profession. For instance, Dr. Blaine Long and Dr. Kevin Miller head the research division of Central Michigan University’s athletic training programs. Long studies electronic therapy’s effects on trigger points, while Miller is focusing on heat illnesses and the protocols associated with treating those illnesses.

This month is National Athletic Training Month.  Whether performing on the field, in the workplace or at home, athletic trainers can help everyone stay at the top of their game.  If you know any athletic trainers, make sure to thank them for all they do.


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