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Athletic Training: A Unique Profession

Written by Joe Chiaramonte, AT, ATC
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From the late 70's, when I began participating in organized sports, and well before, there have been Certified Athletic Trainers working the sidelines, courts and fields.  These healthcare professionals are mostly 'behind the scenes' types of individuals, and are none too often recognized until tragedy strikes or emergency triage is needed. Most Certified Athletic Trainers can be recognized with their khaki pants and polo shirt with aJess Rix Concussion Catholic Central Athlete towel and medical kit draped over their shoulder. It is not an altogether understood profession, but has been growing tremendously over the past two decades. Most High Schools and Universities in the West Michigan area employ Certified Athletic Trainers. My goal with this blog is to introduce you to another side of Athletic Training that you may not know exists.

Many people believe that ATCs (Certified Athletic Trainers) are there to tape, stretch and ice athletes while participating in sports. Accurate as that is, there is so much more to their daily lives. Becoming an ATC requires a bachelor's degree and requires passing a demanding national board certification exam. Many ATCs hold master's degrees in Sports Medicine or Exercise Science. There are requirements for continuing education yearly, and ATCs stay abreast of the latest techniques and technologies in Sports Medicine.

There are distinct differences between Athletic Trainers and "Personal Trainers" that you might find at a local health club or gym. Some distinctions can be found in this link from the National Athletic Trainers' Association. While both professions have extreme value in athletics and fitness, ATCs have an extensive background in sports medicine, evaluation of injury and work under the direction of a physician. They are also recognized as allied health professionals with the Health Resource Services Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and maintain National Provider Identifier numbers that allow for billing in most therapeutic settings.

JaNae Tapiing FHC AthleteA day in the life of an ATC may include rehabbing a post-surgical knee in a physical therapy clinic, to speaking to a group of coaches and parents about proper nutrition in their athletes. They may work closely with a medical office as a physician extender, fitting braces and crutches, casting and wound dressing or showing post-op exercises to patients. Some ATCs are the first to pick up on psychological issues or eating disorders with athletes because of the close relationships they develop.

Most importantly, Athletic Trainers are "THE" first responders to the injured athlete. As David Heidloff references in his blog: Whether it's a serious fracture or dislocation, a potential spinal cord injury or collapsed lung, ruptured spleen or cardiac arrest, these professionals are educated and extensively trained in the acute care the injured athlete.  ATCs are on the front lines daily treating emergent illnesses like heat distresses, diabetic incidents, asthma and allergic reactions.  Heidloff also states that "ATCs are among the most experienced professionals when it comes to recognition and treatment of concussions."   With today's concussion awareness at an all time high, ATCs are an extremely important part of any Sports Medicine program.

There are many settings that employ Athletic Trainers. You will most commonly find them at your local High School, University or Professional Team in the training rooms and on the sidelines. You may also find them in PT clinics and Doctor's offices. There has even been a recent push into industrial and military/municipal settings with treatment to hard working individuals that provide for their families and to our country. This versatility is what makes the profession so valuable and unique. Here is another link from the NATA with a profile on Athletic Trainers.

Be sure to check out this link for a look at the Unsung Heroes of Sports Medicine

Hopefully this blog gives some insight to this unique profession: The Certified Athletic Trainer.

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