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How to Become an Athletic Trainer

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The body is the most important component in physical sporting activities. Therefore, proper care for the body of an athlete is very important. Although most people think of this type of care as Sports Medicine, however, it is actually Athletic Training. Athletic Training involves the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of emergent, acute, or chronic injuries and medical conditions. The American Medical Association (AMA), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) all acknowledge Athletic Training as an allied health care profession.

An Athletic Trainer is a certified and licensed health care professional who practices in the field of sports medicine. Athletic Trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

Responsibilities of an Athletic Trainer

An Athletic Trainer is an important part of the health care team in secondary schools, colleges and universities, professional sports programs, sports medicine clinics, corporate /industrial, and other health care settings. Athletic Trainers are part of the health care team, and thus, provide services that include primary care, injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination, and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries, and medical conditions.

The job of Athletic Trainers is straightforward. They work with medical professionals, coaches, and athletes to ensure that players are ready to play, maintain proper diets, and receive proper treatment in the event of illness or injury. Some of the other responsibilities include:

  1. As an Athletic Trainer, it is your responsibility to conduct an initial assessment of injuries that athletes have sustained to provide emergency and continued care. This is also to decide if they need to take them to a physician for complete diagnosis and treatment.
  2. Athletic Trainers are responsible for caring for injuries. For this, they use physical therapy equipment, medication, and techniques.
  3. Athletes need to go through evaluation for their readiness to play. This is the responsibility of the Athletic Trainer. They provide participation clearance when it is important.
  4. As an Athletic Trainer, your responsibility is to measure and report the progress that injured athletes are making towards recovery to the coach and physician.
  5. It is the responsibility of the Athletic Trainer to develop training programs for athletes to help them improve performance. They also teach them how to use training equipment.
  6. As an Athletic Trainer, you will travel with the team to be available at events. You will also inspect the playing area to locate items that might cause injury to the athletes.
  7. Athletic Trainers need to conduct research and instruct coaches, athletes, parents, medical personnel, and community members in the care and prevention of athletic injuries. It is their responsibility to provide instructions on athletic training or sports medicine.
  8. As an Athletic Trainer, you will lead stretching sessions and exercises for the team and massage sore areas to relieve stress.
  9. It is also your responsibility to work with the coaches to acquire protective equipment and escort injured athletes to the hospital.

Lastly, Athletic Trainers work with physicians to develop and implement comprehensive rehabilitation programs for athletic injuries.

Athletic Trainer doing exercise

Skills of an Athletic Trainer

  1. Active Listening: This involves giving full attention to what the athletes are saying, asking appropriate questions, and not interrupting them when they speak. This will help you perform all your duties as an Athletic Trainer properly.
  2. Time Management: As an Athletic Trainer, you must possess the ability to manage your time and the time of others. Time management skills help when you need to schedule pieces of training for the athletes.
  3. Active Learning Skills: This involves understanding the implications of new information. Whatever information you get from the athletes or their physicians can help you in current and future problem-solving.
  4. Management Skills: As an Athletic Trainer, you must possess the ability to properly use the equipment, facilities, and materials. Therefore, you must have management skills that make it possible for you to ensure that those materials, facilities, and equipment are used appropriately.
  5. Persuasive skills: As an Athletic Trainer, you must be persuasive enough to convince the athletes to change certain behaviors that may cause injury or hinder the treatment of an already existing injury.

Other important skills are:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Coordination skills
  • Teaching skills
  • Communication skills

Educational Requirements for an Athletic Trainer

Like almost every profession in the world, you need a Bachelor’s degree from a recognized university. A degree in science and health-related courses like biology, anatomy, physiology, and nutrition. Some employers prefer Master’s degree holders.

Here are some schools you can get these degrees from.

  1. Swansea University in the United Kingdom offers a Biology BSc (Hons) The degree’s design helps you understand that studying living organisms in all their impressive variety helps us to identify critical threats and major opportunities, from the smallest scale to the biggest. The degree gives you access to world-leading teaching and innovative facilities across ecological, physiological, and molecular fields. It has 3 study options: 3 years full time, 4 years full-time with one year abroad, and 4 years full-time with one year in the industry. The tuition for international students is £17,900.
  2. Pfeiffer University in the United States of America offers a Health and Exercise Science B.S The structure of the degree provides basic theory and application for the fast-growing fields of exercise science, fitness leadership, and exercise physiology. The program will teach you the scientific foundation in the structure and function of the human body, including the physical changes that occur with activity and nutritional variations. You will also learn methods of measuring and evaluating the various components of fitness and assess fitness statuses, evaluate progress, and design programs appropriate for improving fitness levels. The tuition for international students is $30,550 per year.
  3. The University of Tasmania in Australia offers a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science The program is designed to help you develop an understanding of the basic concepts and sciences of the role physical activity plays in the health of individuals and communities. It covers a wide range of human life sciences, including biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and psychology as well as their practical application. The duration of the program is 3 years full-time. The tuition for international students is AUD 31,950 per year.

Athletic Trainer

Job Outlook and Salary for Athletic Trainers

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of Athletic Trainers is projected to increase by 19% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for Athletic Trainers is expected to increase because of people becoming more aware of the effects of sports-related injuries, and the middle-aged and older population remains active. Also, if sports activities continue to exist, there will always be a need for Athletic Trainers.

  • According to Payscale, the average salary for Athletic Trainers in the United Kingdom is £31,068 per year.
  • According to Salarydotcom, the average salary for Athletic Trainers in the United States of America is $46,653 per year.
  • Payscale estimates the average salary for Athletic Trainers in Canada as C$43177 per year.

Typical Employers of Athletic Trainers

There are a lot of work settings where Athletic Trainers are employed to provide care for athletes and even non-athletes. Several Athletic Trainers work in educational settings, such as colleges, universities, elementary schools, and secondary schools. Others work in hospitals, fitness centers, or physicians’ offices, or for professional sports teams. Some areas where Athletic Trainers can provide care are:

  • Risk management and injury prevention
  • Pathology of injuries and illnesses
  • Clinical examination and diagnosis
  • Acute care of injury and illness
  • Pharmacology
  • Therapeutic modalities
  • Therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise
  • General medical conditions and disabilities
  • Nutritional aspects of injury and illness
  • Psychosocial intervention and referral
  • Health care administration
  • Professional development and responsibilities

Careers Paths Related to Athletic Training

Physical Therapy: Physical therapists use exercises, massage, functional movement training, and other techniques to help people injuries and illness regain movement, reduce pain, get stronger and more flexible, and perform day to day tasks.

Massage Therapy: Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. They use their touch to relieve pain, help heal injuries, improve circulation, relieve stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.

Exercise Physiology: Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.

Postgraduate Options for Athletic Trainers

Master of Science in Athletic Training from Temple University in the United States of America. The program’s design caters to students who have an undergraduate degree in a different field. Students in the program are prepared for clinical practice as professionals trained in injury or illness prevention and wellness protection, clinical evaluation and diagnosis, immediate and emergency care, treatment and rehabilitation, and organizational and professional health and well-being. There is a special emphasis on concussion and mild traumatic brain injury education. Students also learn to collaborate effectively with interprofessional healthcare teams, patients, and athletic program administrators. The degree can be completed within 2-5 years full-time. The tuition for international students is $1,358.00 per credit.

M.S. Athletic Training from Indiana Wesleyan University (Online). This professional degree is designed for students who have completed an undergraduate degree in athletic training accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) standards. The program can be completed in 11 months as it is primarily online, but with clinical placements in a single two-week, on-campus intensive instruction session in gross anatomy and emergency medical procedures. It offers both a laboratory and clinical experience that can improve your desirability as a health care professional. The tuition is $520 per credit hour.

Professional Certifications for Athletic Trainers

Most employers of Athletic Trainers require that they are certified. There are a lot of certifications you can get to be an Athletic Trainer.

ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologists Certification: This certification is for fitness professionals with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in exercise science qualified to pursue a career in the university, corporate, commercial, hospital, and community settings. It helps you demonstrate your training level by conducting and interpreting physical fitness assessments and developing exercise prescriptions for people who are healthy or have medically controlled diseases. The exam cost is:

  • ACSM Member Candidates- $279
  • ACSM Non-Member Candidates- $349
  • Re-Test- $175

Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CEP): This certification has the most rigorous educational and practical experience standards in the health and fitness industry. Those who obtain the ACSM-CEP epitomize the gold standard of the exercise profession. This certification demonstrates that you can help increase the possibility of long-term physical, social, and economic independence of patients through individualized patient education, behavior change, and primary and secondary prevention strategies. The exam cost is:

  • ACSM Member Candidates- $279
  • ACSM Non-Member Candidates- $349
  • Re-Test- $175

Other certifications you can get include:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.
  • Advanced Life Support (ACLS)
  • Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP)

Famous Athletic Trainers

Mark Gibson: Mark was the chair of the Exercise and Sport Science Department at the University of Wisconsin when he was inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame. The NATA Hall of Fame is the highest honor an athletic trainer can receive. Honorees are recognized for significant, lasting contributions that enhance the quality of health care provided by athletic trainers and advance the profession. He was also director of the university’s athletic training program and previously served as the head athletic trainer at the University of Wisconsin. He got his bachelor of science degree from Slippery Rock University and a master of science degrees from Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) and the University of Indianapolis.

Laura A. McCabe: McCabe is in her fifth season with the 49ers (a professional football team in San Francisco) as the team’s assistant athletic trainer. Before she joined the 49ers, McCabe was the head athletic trainer for the women’s soccer team at Texas Tech University. Laura graduated from Kansas State University in 2004 with a dual bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Athletic Training. While she was at Kansas State, she worked with the football team as a student trainer. During the 2020 Superbowl, she was part of the three female Athletic Trainers that provided medical care during a Super Bowl. This was a first-time thing.

Before you leave, if you believe you will thrive as an Athletic Trainer, I can assist in enrolling you into a suitbale instituition to kick-start your career pursuits. Send me an email right away.

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