• Posted on 3/19/2021

    What is an athletic trainer? Often confused with personal trainers, athletic trainers are allied health care professionals recognized by the American Medical Association trained to handle the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions. That’s important work! Athletic trainers work primarily in the field of sports medicine and are trained to handle injuries and conditions affecting the neuromuscular (nerve and muscle relationship) and musculoskeletal (bone and muscle relationship) systems.

    Now that we have a better understanding of what an athletic trainer is, you might be wondering what an athletic trainer does day-to-day. At Select Physical Therapy, we employ many athletic trainers to provide services to local middle schools, high schools, colleges and professional teams as well as club and league tournaments. Within these settings, our athletic trainers provide services ranging from:

    • Taping
    • Education on injury reduction and management
    • Emergency care and triage
    • Stretching, and other hands-on therapeutic techniques
    • Develop exercise/rehabilitation programs
    • Mental health and nutrition needs and refer appropriately when necessary
    • Create and implement emergency action plans and return to play protocols

    The goal of an athletic trainer is to prevent the athlete from getting injured in the first place. In the event that an injury occurs, they examine and treat the athlete/individual and if the injured party requires further diagnostic testing or follow-up of any sort, they refer to the proper specialist and work in tandem with them to ensure proper care.

    When the time comes to rehabilitate an athlete’s injury, our athletic trainers create a treatment plan and collaborate with one of the many wonderful physical therapists that work for our organization. They are also integral in being one of the first on scene when an athlete suffers a concussion. Athletic trainers provide both sideline and full concussion evaluations. They are able to conduct baseline tests which primarily measure the neurocognitive and/or vestibular-ocular (eyes and balance) motor system and help direct care to the proper specialist, communicate with parents, the school nurse and advisors/teachers when needed. As the athlete continues post-concussion treatment, athletic trainers help them progress through the return-to-play protocol to ensure a safe return to sport.

    Developing and implementing emergency action plans and other important procedures regarding return to play is an important part of an athletic trainer’s role. These procedures and policies include acclimatization, inclement weather including heat management, COVID-19 and others to help keep athletes safe. In addition, they maintain inventory and assist with budgets and provide ongoing communication to coaches, school administration and parents.

    It’s also important to note that while the focus here is the athletic trainer’s role with athletes, they also provide the same clinical expertise to many companies working with the “industrial athlete.”

    By: Josh Cramer, LAT, Germantown Academy, Philadelphia, PA