Athletic Trainers

Athletic Trainers (ATs) are health care professionals who collaborate with physicians. The services provided by ATs comprise prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. ATs work under the direction of physicians, as prescribed by state licensure statutes.

ATC Terminology

NATA’s policy is not to use the ATC acronym as a noun. ATC is an acronym that describes a credential, not a person, and it should only be used following the name of a certified individual. Using the ATC acronym as a noun inhibits the Board of Certification’s ability to protect the ATC credential against misuse. In other words, NATA and the BOC cannot protect the copyright on the ATC mark if it becomes known as a common noun.

Typical patients and clients served by athletic trainers include:

  • Recreational, amateur and professional athletes
  • Individuals who have suffered musculoskeletal injuries
  • Those seeking strength, conditioning, fitness and performance enhancement
  • Others delegated by the physician

Some places athletic training services are provided include:

  • Athletic training facilities
  • Schools (K-12, colleges, universities)
  • Amateur, professional and Olympic sports venues
  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Physician offices
  • Community facilities
  • Workplaces (commercial and government)

Athletic trainers deliver rehabilitation services under a physician’s guidelines.

Guidelines are general directions and descriptions that lead to the final outcome, thereby allowing the athletic trainer to rely on clinical decision making in constructing the rehabilitation protocol. Protocol are rigid step-by-step instructions that are common in technical fields and do not allow flexibility and/or clinical decision making.

Athletic trainers function under a physician’s direction.

The terms "direction" and "supervision" mean two different things. Most importantly, supervision may require the on-site physical presence of the physician and that the physician examines each and every patient treated by an athletic trainer. Direction, on the other hand, requires contact and interaction, but not necessarily physical presence.

Athletic trainers refer to the population that receives their services as patients or clients.

Athletes comprise a significant proportion of the population who receive care from athletic trainers. However, once an athlete (or any other individual) becomes injured, he or she is a patient. The term "client" should be used for situations where individuals receive athletic training services – usually preventive in nature – on a fee-for-service basis.

Athletic trainers refer to Secondary School and College-based work spaces as facilities or clinics.

The term "Athletic Training Room" does not appropriately recognize the health care services that are delivered within its walls. It may be impractical to find a "one term fits all" descriptor to describe this area, and each institution/facility will use the most appropriate term for their venue.

Athletic trainers should not utilize the term "board certified."

In medicine, the definition of "Board Certified" is a process to ensure that an individual has met standards beyond those of admission into licensure and has passed specialty examinations in the field. Various medical professional organizations establish their own board certification examinations. While the term "Board Certified" is recognizable within the heath care and medical communities, based on the above definition, the entry-level examination does not fit the criteria of being Board Certified. The recommended term is "certified athletic trainer."

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