What's An Athletic Trainer?


Misnomer: Athletic Training doesn’t actually mean what it says. Generally, a conversation with someone who is unfamiliar with Athletic Training goes as follows, “Oh, you’re an athletic trainer, so like a strength trainer?” No. While strength training is an important component of the rehabilitation process from any injury, mild to severe, and helps with prevention of injuries, we do not specifically work in the gym with athletes to increase any type of muscular power, endurance, or strength such as a strength training and conditioning coach would. “So you do Physical Therapy?” No. While physical therapy is also an important part in body mechanics and the rehabilitation process, athletic trainers communicate with the physical therapist on progress of an athlete and collaborate exercises and functional movements while they are in our care and not at the physical therapist’s office. We can also makeshift a do it yourself type of rehab program in cases where the athlete’s injury is not severe enough for referral. We can also work in the clinical setting of physical therapy under the direction of the Therapist themselves. “OH! You are the person that runs on the field when someone gets hurt.” Yes. We are the people that run on the field.

That is usually where education into this profession is halted. Unless you participated in an organized sport for high school, popular clubs, or at the collegiate and professional level, you probably haven’t come across anyone who is an athletic trainer. The extent of what we know runs very broad to very specific. By this I mean we are given the tools to prevent, recognize, assess, manage, and assist in rehabilitation of injuries for an athlete. Our first and foremost responsibility is immediate first aid and emergency care. During events EMT’s or Team Physicians are standing by for when the extent of an injury rests outside our jurisdiction, but up until referral to either of them is needed, we have the say on the athlete’s wellbeing and injury status.

Here is a list of the things that an athlete sees us as- a friend, a confidant, a therapist, to provide trust, injury education, taping, stretching, counseling, rehab, listeners, lifelines, hydration, protection, equipment, reassurance, moral support, and optimism in every circumstance. So the next time you see an athletic trainer standing on the sidelines taping an ankle or holding water, just know that is the tip of the iceberg, and what you don’t see happens in those few moments on the field or court, in the training room, at every practice, at every game, on every away trip, and in-between every play. We are more than just what you see, and we are there to make a difference in that athlete’s life so you can keep cheering for them on game day. But yeah, running on the field, we do that too.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form a certified trainer, only a student. My opinion is just that. My knowledge is based on my schooling for this degree which is ever-changing and may be outdated at some times. What I post is solely of my discretion and this article is in no way connected with my university, with my program, with any certified trainer’s I am associated with, or the National Athletic Training Association.

You can follow the author of this article on Twitter at @rachmaag.


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