For years I’ve watched a curious phenomenon on social media. A television sideline reporter will describe a player’s injury and calls the healthcare provider who helps him a “trainer.” Within seconds, Twitter explodes with tweets from athletic trainers insisting that the reporter use the correct terminology.
As inconsequential as the distinction between “trainer” and “athletic trainer” might seem to people outside of healthcare, it is a very real and necessary one. To most people, a trainer might represent someone who works with clients on their fitness in the gym. These personal or strength and conditioning trainers are certainly important with the active people with whom they work, but athletic training is a different profession altogether.
Largely I think the confusion regarding the term “athletic trainer” stems from how so few people involved in sports – parents, coaches, journalists and athletes –truly recognize all that athletic trainers do. They largely don’t realize how critical athletic trainers are for the sports and the teams playing them.
March is National Athletic Training Month. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association chose the slogan “We Prepare – You Perform” for this year’s campaign. Let’s use the slogan to illustrate just a few of the key roles of athletic trainers in sports.
Athletic trainers prepare for emergencies. They develop emergency action plans, ensure game coverage from emergency medical services, outline roles in case of medical or orthopaedic emergencies, and ensure that all necessary equipment such as automated external defibrillators, spine boards and more are readily available.
Athletic trainers prepare for hot and humid conditions. They work with coaches to implement summer practice schedules to acclimatize young athletes, ensure that athletes are hydrated throughout practices and games, closely observe the players for signs and symptoms of heat illness, and monitor the conditions and recommend canceling activities if the weather warrants it.
Athletic trainers prepare for concussions. They help administer baseline tests prior to the season, check athletes after injury and help to determine if an athlete should return to play, and facilitate the athlete seeing a physician for evaluation and clearance.
Athletic trainers prepare athletes to start each season. They help organize preparticipation physical exams, coordinate follow-up tests, and ensure each athlete sees a specialist if an abnormal finding appears during a PPE.
Athletic trainers prepare athletes to return to play after injury. They coordinate with orthopaedic surgeons and physicians to develop a plan for increasing activity in order to work an athlete back to play quickly and safely.
This list could go on much longer. My point is that athletic trainers do much more than tape ankles and help injured athletes off the field. When they insist on being called by the appropriate term – athletic trainer – honestly, we should give them that respect.
In what other ways do athletic trainers prepare athletes to perform? Please share your thoughts and experience! And make an effort to thank your athletic trainer for all he or she does!
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