Blog Post: March 22nd, 2021

By: Emelia Johnson, Certified Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers, not to be confused with personal trainers, are highly-qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals, who, under the direction of a physician, may provide services and treatment to clients. You can find us working in high schools, colleges and universities, law enforcement and military, clinics, hospitals, and industrial settings. We have a wide variety of roles and responsibilities that include injury and illness prevention, emergent injury care, evaluation and diagnosis of injuries and illnesses, treatment and rehabilitation, and organization and administration. 

There are many aspects to injury and illness prevention. We do pre-season screenings for our athletes and look for abnormalities in their movement patterns, strength, balance, and range of motion. By doing this, we can make them a specialized workout to help prevent injury. We do concussion screening so that we have a cognitive baseline to reference back to in case of concussion down the road. We practice taping, bracing, and padding as a preventive method against injury. This can also provide the athlete with some proprioceptive feedback, helping to further prevent injury. We check protective equipment such as helmets and padding to make sure they are up to date and working properly. We check weather conditions to ensure it is safe for the athletes to be out in and plan what will be needed. The list goes on and on.

Athletic trainers must be prepared at all times to deal with an emergent injury. We must quickly assess the situation, begin the predetermined emergency plan without alarming the patient, and potentially begin life saving procedures. All athletic trainers must be certified in CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation)/AED (Automated external defibrillator). Although we all hope we never have to use this skill, it is vital that we are well-trained and confident in case a time comes when we may need it. We are trained how to hold c-spine and spine board athletes properly and safely. We are also trained in how to use tourniquets properly and safely in the event of uncontrollable bleeding. While this is a domain of our job that we don’t have to use very often, it is clearly one of our most vital.

Athletic trainers spend a good portion of their time evaluating and diagnosing acute and chronic injuries and illnesses. They evaluate injuries during pre-participation screening, on-field, or in the clinic. From ankle sprains, to torn rotator cuffs, to skin infections, we help our athletes with it all. We use their medical history, observation, and specialized tests to determine what exactly an athlete did. Once we diagnose the problem we can then implement immediate care and come up short and long term goals for the athlete. This leads us into our next area of specialty, treatment and rehabilitation.

Once we determine the diagnosis of the injury or illness, we come up with a treatment plan for the athlete to follow and go through with us. Our main goal with this is to return the athlete to optimal performance and function. We create rehab programs specific to their condition. We implement therapeutic exercises and activities, manual therapy, and therapeutic modalities into their programs. We give feedback on proper movement patterns, and we are constantly updating their plan of treatment to keep it challenging for the athlete and to keep them interested in what they are doing.

During treatment, we are also making sure they feel mentally prepared to return to play as well, because this is just as important as the physical recovery. We need athletes to feel confident and comfortable with their abilities before sending them back out to play. One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is watching an athlete return to play confidently after an injury.

When we aren’t treating our athletes you can find us organizing and stocking our athletic training rooms and sideline kits. We make sure everything is sanitized and our modalities are up to code. We order supplies that we need and make sure our continuing education and certifications are up-to-date. We are communicating the status of athletes with coaches and parents and making sure everyone is on the same page. We update our emergency care plans and check all our equipment. We also spend a lot of time documenting our treatment plans for our athletes. 

From late night games to early morning practices, long hours put in preparing rehabs, and planning for worst case scenarios, as well as everything in between, there’s a lot to do when it comes to being an athletic trainer. Even so, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love building relationships and trust with my athletes. I love watching the athlete who just came off an injury score the winning goal or make a winning shot. Seeing my team succeed and helping my athletes reach their goals- that’s why I do what I do. That’s what makes it all worth it. I am proud to be an Athletic Trainer.