What is an Athletic Trainer?

Athletic trainers are sometimes mistaken for athletic coaches because of the word 'trainer'. However, an athletic trainer is actually a highly qualified health care professional.

Athletic trainers work with physicians to provide preventative services, clinical diagnosis, treatment of injuries and medical conditions, emergency care, and therapeutic intervention.

What does an Athletic Trainer do?

The definition of athletic training, according to the Strategic Implementation Team of the National Athletic Trainers' Association's (NATA):

"Athletic training is practiced by athletic trainers, health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to optimize activity and quality of life for patients both of the physically active and sedentary population. Athletic training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and intervention of emergency, acute and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations and disabilities."

An athletic trainer out on a soccer field providing care for an injured soccer player.

Athletic trainers work with people of all ages and all skill levels, from young children to professional athletes.

Duties and responsibilities include:

  • Apply protective or injury-preventive devices such as tape, bandages, and braces
  • Recognize and evaluate injuries
  • Provide first aid or emergency care
  • Develop and carry out rehabilitation programs for injured athletes
  • Plan and implement programs to prevent injury and illness for athletics
  • Keep records, write reports on injuries, write treatment programs

Athletic trainers are usually one of the first healthcare providers on the scene when injuries occur. They work under the direction of a licensed physician and with other healthcare providers. They often discuss specific injuries and treatment options or evaluate and treat patients as directed by a physician. Some athletic trainers meet with a team physician or consulting physician regularly.

An athletic trainer’s administrative responsibilities may include regular meetings with an athletic director or other administrative officer to deal with budgets, purchasing, policy implementation, and other business-related issues.

Are you suited to be an athletic trainer?

Athletic trainers have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of an Athletic Trainer like?

Many athletic trainers work in educational facilities, such as secondary schools and colleges. Others may work in physicians' offices or for professional sports teams. Some athletic trainers work in rehabilitation and therapy clinics, in the military, or with performing artists.

Many athletic trainers spend much of their time working outdoors on sports fields in all types of weather.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become an Athletic Trainer?

Athletic trainers who wish to become certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association must complete a bachelor’s degree at a school with an accredited athletic training program. This degree takes four years to complete, though some schools may offer the option to accelerate the program by taking additional or summer courses.

In addition to the bachelor’s degree prerequisite, most states require athletic trainers to be certified and licensed. This process normally involves at least two years of academic clinical education. It may be a part of an academic program, or it may be completed outside of the general curriculum. A master’s degree in athletic training is also common in this field.

Should I become an Athletic Trainer?

As with many occupations, becoming an athletic trainer requires formal education and certification complemented by natural skills and characteristics.

Some of the most celebrated athletic trainers fit the same general profile. They are typically social and confident individuals who possess notable communication and decision-making skills. They demonstrate the ability to manage difficult situations and related stress. They are empathetic and have a genuine desire to help others. They are by nature inquisitive.

All of these qualities are clearly needed by accomplished trainers in their primary role of liaison between athletes, coaches, and doctors. Flexibility and adaptability are also hallmarks of prototypical athletic trainers, who may often be required to change their schedules on short notice and work evenings and weekends.

Deserving of particular mention is the need for athletic trainers to be detail-oriented. From attentive conversation to note-taking, being aware of details is an asset for anyone engaged in healthcare. For trainers, it is vital.

Athletes – especially high-level and elite athletes – are notoriously hard working, and their desire to compete can keep them from recognizing an injury or telling the whole truth about how their bodies are feeling. Because of this reality, it is essential that athletic trainers see and hear the details. By noticing slight changes in range of motion or response times, an attentive trainer is an especially valuable asset in situations where emotions and desire to keep playing can conceal the truth.

What are Athletic Trainers like?

Based on our pool of users, athletic trainers tend to be predominately investigative people. They are typically extroverts and demonstrate compassion, patience, and a keen interest in the workings of the human body.

Athletic Trainers are also known as:
Certified Athletic Trainer