So, what is an athletic trainer anyway?

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By: Rachel Wheeler
Assistant Athletic Trainer

So when presented with the opportunity to write a blog (which I can honestly say I’ve never done before), I was a bit undecided about what direction to go with it. I didn’t want it to turn into a platform for talking about my job or how much people in my profession work and yada yada yada…the truth is a lot of people, not just in athletics, have difficult, time intensive, high stress jobs requiring them to work long, arduous days with limited time off! It’s a quality in work that I feel has become all to familiar to many. However, I think despite my hesitations, it is important to talk about my job since there always seems to be confusion surrounding what an athletic trainer actually is! I have been asked numerous times: What exactly do you do? Are you a physical therapist? What did you major in? Are you a pre-med student? The list goes on and on! I think my favorite might actually be when you are introducing yourself to someone and they ask, “What do you do?” I respond by saying I’m an athletic trainer! This is typically followed by an awkward smile and, “Oh, ok great! So you’re a PT or a strength coach?” Ugh…!! There’s clearly a lack of understanding in the general public about what my job really is!

There's more to athletic training than just taping ankles!

So, what exactly is an athletic trainer? While I very much appreciate and admire the work done by physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, and even just your regular old unspecified ‘trainer,’ I am not in fact any of those! I think the easiest way of describing what an ATC (certified athletic trainer) does is by saying we’re kind of a jack of all trades. We have a background in prevention; clinical evaluation and diagnosis; immediate care; treatment, rehabilitation, and reconditioning; organization and administration; and professional responsibilities. These are known as the 6 Domains of Athletic Training: they are the framework for our education and knowledge base! We have to go to an accredited program for 4 years to be eligible to sit for the Board of Certification exam in order to be certified. We also must maintain our certification by advancing our knowledge through continuing education units (CEU’s). It is also worthy of noting that we are a recognized allied health profession!

We are not only the first on the field to assess what’s going on and determine the best course of action, we are also trained to perform the evaluation, assess the situation, recommend and perform treatment, and rehabilitate the injured area! We can make recommendations on nutrition and healthy eating/lifestyles, assist with lifting and conditioning programs, and even check someone out when they just aren’t feeling up to par whether it’s an illness or case of the blues. I sometimes actually think the job of an athletic trainer is half all of that stuff and half life counselor! It would almost be appropriate some days to have that cliche couch/chair thin in the corner of our offices for all of the therapy we do and advice we give!

The greatest parts about this job is that you are forever on your toes since no day is the same, and the relationships you form with the athletes/clients/co-workers, etc. There are days when the skies open up and it pours on you (literally and figuratively), and there are others that just give you a perma-grin! There are really long hours and sometimes even an under appreciation for all we try to do. It’s mentally and physically fatiguing, and sometimes I think I wish I could just find a quiet nook to sit for 5 minutes and gather my thoughts! BUT, there is nothing I would rather be doing and I love my job!

P.s. To answer the questions presented earlier, no I am not a student and yes I did actually graduate from college with a  B.S. and M.Ed in Athletic Training! It really is a major and a wonderful career!

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