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.
A 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.