By: JP Stowe, ATC, CSCS – Eastern Maine Medical Center
March is National Athletic Training Month! This year’s theme is “Your Protection is Our Priority,” and I want to take a moment to recognize my profession and the dedicated athletic trainers who choose to do this for a living. This is a perfect month to educate the public about what our job entails. As athletic trainers (ATs) we are here to care for and protect athletes of all ages.
Athletic trainers are experts.
Working to prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries and sports-related illnesses, athletic trainers offer an unparalleled continuum of care. ATs are healthcare professionals recognized by the American Medical Association. As part of a team of health care professionals, we practice under the direction of and in collaboration with physicians. ATs work with individuals who are physically active or involved in sports participation through all stages of life to prevent, recognize, treat, and rehabilitate injuries and medical conditions. Athletic trainers should not be confused with personal trainers or “trainers” who focus solely on fitness and conditioning. Always refer to us as an athletic trainer or AT to ensure clarity of profession and quality of care. Athletic trainers must have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Athletic Training from an accredited program, though 70 percent also carry a Master’s Degree. ATs must then pass a Board of Certification Exam and become licensed by the State of Maine in order to practice athletic training.
Athletic trainers save lives.
Sports injuries can be serious. Brain and spinal cord injuries and conditions such as heat illness can be life-threatening if not recognized and properly managed. ATs are equipped to treat acute injuries on the spot, yet active people can have chronic illnesses as well. People with diabetes and asthma can and do safely work and exercise, and ATs help manage these critical health issues as they relate to physical exertion.
Athletic trainers are on site.
We work with patients to avoid injuries. We are present when injuries occur and we provide immediate care; we rehabilitate patients after injuries or surgery. It’s a continuum of care. We know our patients well because we are at the school and worksite every day. Developing a rapport with our patients is critical. They need to feel comfortable to approach us about any injury and trust that we are there to protect them and get them back to activity as quickly and safely as possible.
Athletic trainers play a critical role in concussion management
ATs are able to identify subtle signs that an athlete may have suffered a concussion and provide the first line of defense with concussion detection through our unbiased lens. Because we often see athletes on a daily basis, athletic trainers are also in the best position to perform the daily follow-up examinations that allow the AT and team physician to determine if the athlete is symptom-free. The AT then will oversee the successful completion of the gradual return to play protocol required for a safe return to sports.
Athletic trainers take responsibility and mitigate risk.
School administrators, athletics directors, and coaches have their own jobs, which may pose a conflict of interest with athlete safety; they are not experts in managing injuries or sports-related illnesses, nor should they be responsible for doing so. Treating injuries at the school, rather than sending the patient to the emergency department saves money and time lost – and gets the patient back to activity faster.
Just as professional and college athletes do, athletes of all ages should have access to athletic trainers.
There are millions more high school athletes than college ones and they all deserve to have access to an athletic trainer at their school. Unfortunately, this is not the case as only 37% of high schools across the nation have a full time athletic trainer. If you send your child to a high school without an athletic trainer, consider talking to your district about having one. If your school can afford sports, they can afford to have an athletic trainer. We have to get to a point where it’s not a luxury to have an athletic trainer, it’s a necessity.
If your school or worksite utilizes an athletic trainer, please take the time this month to thank them for what they do each and every day!