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What Does an Athletic Trainer Do?

An athletic trainer provides first aid when an athlete is injured on the field.
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  • Originally Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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There are two types of athletic trainers that are commonly found in the health and fitness industry. One type of trainer helps his or her clients increase their fitness levels, lose weight, gain strength or otherwise develop physically. The other type of athletic trainer focuses on helping athletes prevent or recover from injuries. Both types might have roles that overlap somewhat, but the requirements for becoming each type can vary greatly.

Medical Trainers

Some athletic trainers are part of the allied health profession and focus on injury prevention and recovery. To become this type of trainer, a person typically must earn a college degree in athletic training or a related medical field and pass a certification exam. These trainers often work in sports medicine clinics, for schools or for professional sports teams.

A trainer of this type tends to work alongside other medical professionals, such as doctors who specialize in sports medicine. When athletes are injured, the trainer helps carry out any plans and methods for healing their injuries with the goal of helping the athletes to continue competing or to resume competing as soon as possible. Depending on the injury, the trainer might help bandage, tape or apply ice to the injured body part. The trainer might also help athletes do rehabilitative exercises and then assess them for the ability to return to competition.

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Evaluation and Education

Another role of an athletic trainer might be to evaluate exercises, movements, techniques or the sport itself to make sure that injuries are kept to a minimum. Just as an occupational therapist might help sort out the most ergonomic ways for people to complete repetitive work, the trainer can evaluate the athletes' techniques and movements to determine whether there is a risk of injury. Working with coaches, a trainer might develop safe exercise regimens or better techniques for athletes. The trainer also can educate athletes on avoiding certain activities that might result in injuries.

Other Job Requirements

When an athletic trainer works for a sports team or a school, he or she usually is present at sporting events, which can make traveling a part of the job. The trainer also will maintain supplies of basic first-aid equipment and any rehabilitative equipment that might be needed. When an athlete is injured during competition, the trainer might work like a case manager, contacting all medical providers that the athlete will need to see, such as doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors or orthopedic specialists. The trainer also might need to maintain records of athletes’ injuries and rehabilitation.

Fitness Trainers

An athletic trainer who focuses on fitness — more commonly referred to as a personal trainer — might work in a health club or gym, independently or for a school or professional sports team. He or she typically puts together exercise regimens for his or her clients that are based on the clients' goals. For example, a client who wants to lose weight might be put on a regimen that is different from one for a client who wants to build muscle or train for a certain competition. The trainer also might give his or her clients specific diets to follow and might recommend certain vitamins or supplements.

A person usually does not need a college degree to become a personal trainer, although a degree in physical education might be beneficial. Many of these types of trainers are people who are concerned about their own physical fitness and want to share their expertise and experience with others. Some fitness organizations offer accreditation for trainers, who usually must pass an examination and perhaps even demonstrate their own fitness in order to become certified. A certified trainer can use this accreditation as proof of his or her qualifications while seeking new clients.

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Discuss this Article

anon354014
Post 10

So this article is a little misleading. There is only one type of athletic trainer (in the U.S. at least) and they require a four year bachelor or two years masters degree.

A personal trainer does not require a degree and is not in the same profession or vein as athletic training. An athletic trainer is an allied health profession and while some of us athletic trainers (ATC for short) may work in fitness on the side, the overwhelming majority do medical coverage for high school or college athletics. We also work in doctors' offices, performance arts and with fire/police/military.

This article has the gist of things, but I just wanted to make sure that those interested in the profession know it is a medical profession and while we deal with athletics, we have the general medical knowledge and orthopedic knowledge to work with any active person or profession.

anon249366
Post 6

I really am glad I found this site. I was so lost on the internet, looking and browsing. This also gives all important facts.

It must also be a great job to be an athletic trainer and spend all this time helping athletes in all sports. Another thing is it's almost like a doctor, specifically for sports, which must be great.

BambooForest
Post 4

It must be hard to be an athletic trainer when new research comes out. What do you do when there is a practice which some say is a great idea while others say it is a terrible idea? I am thinking in particular of things like ice baths, which were in vogue for a few years but I recently read might actual cause muscle swelling and all sorts of problems. I would hate to think of trainers getting fired or sued if a problem occurs from something like that.

hyrax53
Post 3

The sports trainers at my high school's sports medicine center were very capable. I imagine they all went on to really good athletic trainer careers, because they had a great deal of experience by the time they finished school.

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