An athletic trainer is a medical professional with training in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries that occur during sports and other forms of physical activity. They have been recognized by the American Medical Association as an allied health profession since 1990 and are considered highly qualified healthcare providers.
The job of an athletic trainer is to help prevent and treat injuries, including concussions, that result from the act of playing a sport. They can work in a variety of settings, including schools, colleges and universities; professional sports teams; military organizations; sports medicine clinics and hospitals; performing arts facilities and organizations; and medical offices.
They are trained in the five main areas of certification: injury prevention, risk management and safety; assessment; management; treatment; and rehabilitation. They are also educated in the field of nutrition, providing guidance on food choices and proper body weight, which helps to reduce the risk of injury.
Their responsibilities include administering pre-participation physical examinations, monitoring and providing emergency care for student athletes who have injured themselves in school activities, and conducting baseline concussion testing. They also collect medical forms, complete daily injury and rehabilitation notes and submit paperwork to school insurance companies.
Some of their responsibilities may be limited by the number of students they are working with, but it is not uncommon for them to be called on to address medical issues that arise during games and practices. They can provide care in a timely manner, which lessens the cost of emergency room visits or physician appointments that would otherwise occur.
In addition, they can also offer advice on ways to increase physical fitness and strength to ensure the athlete is in optimal condition for participating in the sport. This can reduce the chance of re-injury and allow the athlete to compete longer and stronger.
A trained athletic trainer can provide a unique set of skills that no other health care provider has, as they are highly trained in the assessment and evaluation of athletes. They can recognize subtle changes in an athletes usual behavior that are often missed by other health care professionals. For example, an athlete who has been diagnosed with a concussion may appear eerily quiet and relaxed, even though the symptomology of the concussion is clear to other health care providers.
Whether the athlete is in a school, a hospital or a private clinic, an athletic trainer can assess the patients symptoms and conditions and then recommend treatment options and medications. For example, they can prescribe pain relief medications and anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve inflammation in the muscles or joints.
They can also perform a variety of procedures that can help the body recover from injuries and illnesses, such as clean-up and bandaging bleeding wounds. For example, they can use a tourniquet to suction the blood out of the wound or apply a compression garment to keep it closed until it heals.
Because of the extensive training and experience they have, athletic trainers are very effective in evaluating an athletes condition and treating or preventing sports-related injuries. Their ability to quickly assess the nature and extent of an athletes injury allows them to determine if surgery or other more severe interventions are necessary to restore full function.