Athletic training


Athletic training is an allied health care profession recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA)[1] which "encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions."[2]

There are five domains of athletic training listed in the 7th edition (2015) of the Athletic Training Practice Analysis:[3]

  • Injury and Illness Prevention and Wellness Promotion
  • Examination, Assessment, and Diagnosis
  • Immediate and Emergency Care
  • Therapeutic Intervention
  • Healthcare Administration and Professional Responsibility

Settings in which Athletic trainers (ATs) generally work include health clinics, secondary schools, colleges and universities, professional sports programs, and other athletic health care settings,[4] usually operating "under the direction of, or in collaboration with a physician."[1]


Athletic trainers function as members of the health care team in a wide variety of settings, including secondary schools (24%), colleges and universities (16%), clinics/hospitals (including physician practices) (18%), professional sports, and performing arts (3%), industrial/corporate settings (3%), academia (3%), youth sports (1%), military/government/law enforcement (1%), and administration (3%).[5] Practicing athletic trainers are required to have state credentials in all U.S. states except California. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, there are more than 58,000 athletic trainers around the world.[6] The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, projects that employment of athletic trainers is estimated to grow by 19% between 2018 and 2028.[7]

Roles and responsibilities


The Board of Certification serves as the national certifying body for athletic trainers, and its Standards of Professional Practice outline the roles and responsibilities of certified athletic trainers. Such practice standards include practice expectations such as, "The Athletic Trainer renders service or treatment under the direction of a physician."[8] Regardless of the setting, limitations, and restrictions on what an athletic trainer can do and who can be treated are in large part determined by the regulatory statutes governing professional practice in individual states.[9]


Some patients and clients need treatment or consultation from people other than the athletic trainer, and in these cases, it is the athletic trainer's responsibility to understand the limits of their scope of practice and recognize situations where a referral is necessary. "Several support health services may be used including school health services, nurses, physicians, dentists, podiatrists, physician's assistants, physical therapists, strength and conditioning specialists, biomechanists, exercise physiologists, nutritionists, psychologists, massage therapists, occupational therapists, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, chiropractors, orthopedists, prosthesis, equipment personnel, referees, or social workers."[10]

NATA code of ethics

"The National Athletic Trainers’ Association Code of Ethics states the principles of ethical behavior that should be followed in the practice of athletic training. It is intended to establish and maintain high standards and professionalism for the athletic training profession."[11]

Employment settings

  • Clinic
  • Hospital
  • Industrial/Occupational
  • Corporate
  • College/University
  • Two-year Institution
  • Secondary School
  • Professional Sports
  • Amateur/recreation/youth sports
  • Performing Arts
  • Military/Law Enforcement/Government
  • Health/fitness/sports/performance enhancement clinics/clubs
  • Independent Contractor


Undergraduate course descriptions

All courses may have prerequisites to be completed before taking further coursework. Also, those prerequisites and content of the courses will vary upon the institute and professor. The courses listed below are commonly taken to increase knowledge regarding athletic training.

  • Human Physiology- This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of the function and regulation of the human body and the physiological integration of the organ systems to maintain homeostasis
  • Human Anatomy- The anatomical structures of the body will be studied in this course. Including the muscular systems, organs, respiratory, bony anatomy, veins, and arteries. This course will help you to learn all components of the body and is almost always accompanied by a lab section to reinforce the lectures.
  • Exercise Physiology- This course investigates the acute responses and chronic adaptations of physiological functions to a wide range of physical exercise conditions, involving people of all ages and abilities.
  • Kinesiology- Structural and applied musculoskeletal anatomy relative to human movement and sports skills. This course concentrates on muscles, their origins, insertions, and actions.
  • Nutrition- This course emphasizes basic nutritional principles and concepts, their application to personal health, and the relationship between food and its use by the human body for energy, regulation, structure, and optimal health. Discussion of issues in nutrition during various stages of the life cycle and specific chronic diseases will be addressed.
  • Therapeutic Modalities- This is a course that looks into the background for the clinical application of therapeutic modalities in athletic training. Students will comprehend the underlying theories, physiological effects, indications, and contraindications of various therapeutic modalities utilized in the treatment of orthopedic injuries.
  • Acute Care of Injury and Illness- This course focuses on the emergency management techniques that are commonly implemented when dealing with trauma and illnesses suffered during/through sport participation. Included will be field evaluation of medical emergencies, such as cessation of breathing or circulation, shock, concussion, and spinal injury to the athlete. Students will review policies and position statements issued by the NATA, NCAA, ACSM, AAP, and AMA regarding prevention, evaluation, and management of acute athletic injuries and illnesses.
  • Physical Examination of the Lower Extremities- Intense in-depth study of the lower extremities including physical examinations, injury recognition, treatment, taping, bracing, and care. Laboratory experiences emphasize the methods and techniques in evaluating lower extremity injuries/conditions.[12]
  • Physical Examination of the Upper Extremity- Intense in-depth study of the upper extremities including a physical examination (history, PROM, palpation, Neuro exam, special tests), injury recognition and diagnosis, treatment (taping/bracing, rehab, modalities). Clinical experiences emphasize the techniques and skills taught in evaluating upper extremity conditions/injuries

Undergraduate athletic training programs

The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) website provides a list of all the accredited programs in the United States.[13] It provides the name of the college, whom to contact, and a link to the institution's website. An Undergraduate Athletic Training degree can only be received at an accredited school for athletic training. Athletic training is being transitioned to a master's program, so within the next few years, a Master's program will be needed in order to sit for the BOC exam.

Entry-level masters programs

Although the majority of athletic trainers receive a bachelor's degree in athletic training before taking the Board of Certification Exam (BOC), it is not the only way to receive an education in athletic training. An entry-level master's program is a two-year program that covers the same material as an undergraduate athletic training degree. Common prerequisite classes are human anatomy, human physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise physiology, nutrition, and personal health along with a certain number of observation hours completed under the supervision of a certified athletic trainer (ATC).[14] Prerequisites can vary by institution so be sure to research the prerequisites for your institutions of interest. There are 26 accredited entry-level master's programs in the U.S.A. See below for a link to a list of these institutions.

Graduate school in athletic training and related fields

There are approximately 15 accredited athletic training master`s programs.[15] These programs consist of students who are already certified athletic trainers that want to advance their academic and clinical experience.[16] These are two-year programs that culminate with a Master of Science degree (M.S.) in athletic training. Graduate programs in athletic training are not always specifically in athletic training, but in a related field. Some of these fields may include, but are not limited to, kinesiology, biomechanics, sports management, sport and exercise psychology, exercise physiology, health promotion, etc.[17] These programs are also two years in length. While enrolled in one of these programs, the athletic trainer may gain clinical experience and receive a stipend through making some money by obtaining a graduate assistant internship.

Link to schools

  • Fitness Trainer Certification.[18]
  • Post-professional Programs in Athletic Training[19]

The CAATE website also has a list of all of the accredited programs in each state.

Graduate assistant position

A graduate assistant athletic trainer position is a position in which a graduate athletic training student is able to work as an assistant athletic trainer while taking graduate courses. Graduate assistant athletic trainers are responsible for providing the medical coverage of select teams at the institution where they are working. Responsibilities may vary, but include administering daily medical coverage for selected intercollegiate athletic teams (practice/event); traveling with the assigned team, evaluation and documentation of athletic injuries, administrative responsibilities, serving as Approved Clinical Instructor (ACI) or Clinical Instructor (CI) in a CAATE – accredited ATEP, and other duties as assigned by the head athletic trainer.[20] Other responsibilities may include working at a high school, clinic, teaching, or doing research. Graduate assistant positions are generally about 10-month appointments that are renewable after the first year, and may include additional summer work. Visit the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Career Center for job postings.[21]

Accredited programs

Athletic Training programs are evaluated by CAATE to ensure that they follow the standards for Entry-Level Athletic Training Programs. Evaluations may take place every three to seven years depending on the results of the last visit. Successfully completing the CAATE accredited education program is a part of the criteria that determines a candidate's eligibility for the Board of Certification (BOC) examination.[22][23]


"The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is the professional membership association for certified athletic trainers and others who support the athletic training profession. Founded in 1950, the NATA has grown to more than 35,000 members worldwide today. The majority of certified athletic trainers choose to be members of the NATA – to support their profession, and to receive a broad array of membership benefits. By joining forces as a group, NATA members can accomplish more for the athletic training profession than they can individually".[24]

Before the formation of NATA, athletic trainers occupied a somewhat insecure place in the athletic program. Since that time, as a direct result of the standards and ethics established by NATA, there has been considerable professional advancement.[25] Every year NATA works on behalf of all athletic trainers to enhance health care for both athletic trainers and those who receive care.

NATA is the professional organization for Athletic trainers across the nation. Each region of the USA has their own district under NATA but within their area, they have their own agendas and board members. Each district also has a director that serves on the NATA Board of Directors.[26]

There are 10 districts.

Every state has their own state athletic training association that acts similar to the district associations as they have their own board members. The state associations answer to the district associations and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Links to the state associations can be found through the regional websites.[27]

Other issues

Other clinical and legislative issues surrounding Athletic Training practice include:

  • |publisher=NATA Concussion laws, position statements, and policies.[28]
  • Athletic Trainers as Physician Extenders[29]
  • Certified Athletic Trainer as a partner in the Athletic Department[30]
  • Youth Sports Legislation
  • Guidelines in Prevention of Chronic Overuse Injury in Pediatric Patients
  • Education on Public Safety in the Workplace
  • Mental health in athletes
  • Providing equality in patient care


  1. ^ a b "What is an Athletic Trainer?". The Board of Certification Website. 2003. Athletic training is also recognized by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) as an allied health care profession. Athletic trainers (ATs) are health care professionals who render service or treatment under the direction of or in collaboration with a physician, in accordance with their education, training and the state's statutes, rules and regulations.[1] The practice of athletic training encompasses health promotion and wellness and examination, diagnosis, immediate care, and rehabilitation of clients/patients with emergent, acute, and chronic health conditions. As defined by the Strategic Implementing Team of the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) in August 2007.
  2. ^ "Athletic Training". NATA. 2015-03-19. Retrieved 2022-01-07.
  3. ^ Board of Certification (2015). "Practice Analysis, 7th ed" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-11-29.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Prentice, W. (2011). Principles of Athletic Training. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Athletic Trainers : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics".
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Prentice, W. (2011). Principles of Athletic Training. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  10. ^ Prentice, W. (2011). Principles of Athletic Training. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  11. ^ "Code of Ethics". 2015-08-11.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-06-20. Retrieved 2016-05-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Commission on Accreditation and Administration of Athletic Training Education". Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  14. ^ "Commission on Accreditation and Administration of Athletic Training Education". Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  15. ^ Prentice, William (2011). Principles of Athletic Training: A Competency-Based Approach. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. p. 29. ISBN 9780073523736.
  16. ^ Prentice, William (2011). Principles of Athletic Training: A Competency-Based Approach. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. p. 29. ISBN 9780073523736.
  17. ^ "Athletic Training Graduate Programs". Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  18. ^ {{cite web|title=Fitness trainer certification course |url= |access-date=20 April 2020 |archive-url=
  19. ^ "National Athletic Trainers' Association: Accredited-Programs". Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  20. ^ "National Athletic Trainers' Association Career Center". Retrieved 11 May 2012.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "National Athletic Trainers' Association Career Center". Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  22. ^ "Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education: Overview of the Commission". Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  23. ^ "Board of Certification". Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  24. ^ "NATA". Retrieved 2013-02-25.
  25. ^ Prentice, W. (2011). Principles of Athletic Training. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  26. ^ "NATA". Retrieved 2012-05-10.
  27. ^ "NATA". Retrieved 2012-05-10.
  28. ^ "NATA Statements". NATA. Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
  29. ^ "Athletic Trainers as Physician Extenders" (PDF). NATA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
  30. ^ "Certified Athletic Trainers as a partner in the Athletic Department" (PDF). NATA. Retrieved 2008-08-01.

External links

  • Media related to Athletic training at Wikimedia Commons
  • NATA Press Room