Definition and Nature of Field
Athletic trainers (ATs) are highly educated and skilled allied health care professionals who specialize in preventing, assessing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries of physically active people. Athletic trainers practice under the direction of a physician and in cooperation with other allied health care personnel such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and registered nurses.
Often, the AT is the first line of defense in providing care for athletic injuries, making them an integral member of the athletic health care team in secondary schools, colleges and universities, sports medicine clinics, professional sports programs, hospitals, police and fire departments, and various industrial settings that require immediate onsite medical emergency assistance.
A typical day for an AT varies with the level of competition, employment setting and other institutional requirements. In the school athletic setting, the AT may spend their day working with athletes and coaches on preventing injuries through strength, conditioning, and nutrition programming. Prior to practices and games, the AT tapes, bandages, braces and completes similar preventative measures. During activities, the AT evaluates injuries and determines whether the athlete should be referred to a physician or follow standing orders and manage minor injuries. The AT must ensure continual communication between an injured athlete, the physician, coach and family on when and how the athlete can return safely to practice and competition. Because ATs are multi-skilled health care providers, they can also be found working as physician extenders in physician offices and hospitals, in physical therapy clinics, in industrial settings, in the military, and with the performing arts.
As specialists in the prevention, recognition, and rehabilitation of injuries incurred by physically active individuals, ATs provide immediate emergency care and use their knowledge of injuries and the factors influencing injuries to develop treatment programs based on medical, exercise and sports sciences.