March is National Athletic Training Month! Certified Athletic Trainers (ATs) play an important role in keeping student athletes safe on the field and court. We talked with Angelo Marsella, Director of Sports Medicine, and Sports Medicine Coordinators Elissa Linderman and Stacey Schreiber about what Athletic Trainers do and why they’re so important.
What do Athletic Trainers do?
Elissa Linderman (EL): Athletic Trainers help with the prevention, assessment, immediate care, and rehabilitation of physically active people who experience injuries or other medical conditions while playing sports. When working with athletes, we are the first line of defense against heat illness, concussions, and overuse injuries. Most commonly you will see Athletic Trainers at the High School, Collegiate, and Professional Sport levels.
What are the top injuries seen by Athletic Trainers?
Stacey Schreiber (SS): The most common injuries seen by ATs tend to be sprains and strains, typically of the lower extremity, but it is not uncommon to come in contact with more serious conditions, such as fractures, cartilage defects, and even dislocated joints.
What are the top ways Athletic Trainers prevent injuries?
Angelo Marsella (AM): An Athletic Trainer’s extensive knowledge of anatomy helps prevent and understand musculoskeletal injuries. ATs are educated in recognizing unsafe field or environmental conditions as well. They are prepared to design and implement rehabilitation programs that are functional and assist in a safe return to play post-rehab. ATs are also trained to inspect and properly fit sports equipment, such as helmets and shoulder pads in football, to ensure safety.
SS: Athletic Trainers place a strong emphasis on pre-season strength and conditioning as well as proper dynamic warm-ups before practice or events. Correcting muscular imbalances can be one of the most important factors in decreasing the occurrence of injuries during game play.
EL: ATs prevent injuries by educating people on how to reduce the risk of injuries and by advising them on how to properly use equipment, hydrate and eat, and use appropriate strengthening programs.
What makes for a good Athletic Trainer?
SS: The most important characteristic to have would be adaptability. Often, Athletic Trainers are faced with minimal resources, time, and assistance. We do not have the luxury of utilizing imaging tools, such as X-rays or MRIs, when faced with an on-field injury, and must react knowledgeably and quickly to each individual situation. ATs must adapt to every case, as no mechanism, athlete, or condition is the same. One day we may have to run onto the ice during a hockey game to assess a facial laceration, and the next day we could be applying a tourniquet and splinting a compound fracture on the football field.
How does someone become an Athletic Trainer?
AM: To become an AT, you must earn either a Bachelor’s or entry-level Master’s degree from a college or university that has an Athletic Training education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). The program must offer a major in Athletic Training. Students enrolled in an undergraduate Athletic Training program are expected to receive clinical experiences that provide supervised, hands-on- education as well as specified courses related to athletic training. After graduation, a student must pass the BOC certification exam and earn the AT credential before practicing as a certified Athletic Trainer. Many states have laws that require state licensure in addition to national certification.
Why did you go into Athletic Training?
EL: I was an athlete all my life and I saw it as a way to stay involved and give back to something that was always a big part of my life.
AM: While in my sophomore year of high school, I suffered an injury and had to go through rehab before returning to play again. Unfortunately, we did not have an AT at the school, and I began to advise my teammates who had also injured themselves. In my junior year, I met with my guidance counselor to discuss colleges and careers, and I told him I was interested in athletics and Sports Medicine. He gave me information on athletic training programs, and it’s all history from there!
SS: I got into Athletic Training because I wanted to combine my love for athletics and the health sciences. Growing up, I worked in my cousin’s Physical Therapy practice and got to know the profession at a young age, and I was convinced I would make this my career somehow. The reward that you get from bringing someone from their lowest point at the time of a significant injury all the way back to competition makes it well worth the time put in!
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer, or wants to know about a Sports Medicine career with Professional Physical Therapy, contact our Sports Medicine Department at SportsMed@professionalpt.com or check out our Careers page!