Like most allied healthcare professions, the field of athletic training is growing and should continue to do so in the near future.Awareness of the consequences of sports injuries, as well as insurance companies increasing recognition of athletic trainers as healthcare providers, are both contributing to this growth.
An athletic trainer’s job is to prevent, diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. Trainers work with patients of all ages and skill levels, from little leaguers to professional athletes. They most often work under the direction of a physician or other healthcare provider.
Among an athletic trainer’s typical duties are:
• Applying protective or injury-preventive devices such as tape, bandages and braces
• Recognizing and evaluating injuries
• Providing first aid or emergency care
• Developing and carrying out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes
• Planning and implementing comprehensive programs to prevent injury and illness from athletics
• Performing administrative tasks, such as keeping records and writing reports on injuries and treatment programs
Athletic trainers work in a variety of situations, although more than a one-third of all trainers work in schools, from public grade schools to universities.
Of course, athletic trainers are part of most sports team staffs, professional or school-associated. They also are employed in physicians’ offices and in fitness and recreation centers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment growth for athletic trainers will grow 30% between 2010 and 2020, resulting in about 5,500 new positions.
One of the contributing factors to this field’s growth is the increased awareness of the consequences of sports-related injuries, particularly among younger athletes. Concussions are of particular concern as they can cause permanent injuries, such as brain swelling and learning disabilities.
Organizations sometimes employ athletic trainers in order to educate their staffs on preventative techniques, such as the proper way to lift heavy items, in order to keep injuries, and costs, down.
The average median salary for an athletic trainer in May 2010 was $41,600.
Most athletic training positions require a bachelor’s degree, and master’s degrees are increasingly common. Prospective students should ensure that the program to which they are applying is accredited. Most programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).
Programs include classroom and clinical hours. Coursework involves science and health-related classes such as anatomy, physiology, nutrition and biomechanics.
Nearly all states require athletic trainers to pass a standard certification examination offered by the independent Board of Certification, Inc. Trainers must graduate from an accredited course in order to take the BOC exam. Continuing education courses are a requirement of certification as well.
In addition, most states require athletic trainers to be licensed. Requirements for licensing in most states include graduating from an accredited athletic training program and passing the BOC exam.
In school settings, athletic trainers may take on some teaching responsibilities and may need a teaching certificate or license.
Among the qualities necessary for success in the field of athletic training are:
• Applied knowledge: A wide range of medical knowledge is essential. Trainers evaluate symptoms, consult with other healthcare professionals, and recommend and administer treatments.
• Decision-making skills: Trainers must make quick decisions that can affect a client’s health or career.
• Detail oriented. Athletic trainers keep detailed, accurate records to ensure patients are receiving the appropriate treatments.
• Interpersonal skills. Athletic trainers must manage sometimes stressful situations. They must communicate clearly with physicians, athletes, coaches, and parents.