Wherever athletes are playing sports, regardless of their age or which sport they’re playing, there’s the potential that someone could get hurt on the field, court or rink. Athletic trainers are the healthcare professionals who work with sports players to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries. Before a game, they may work to prevent injuries from happening in the first place by putting protective bandages, tape and braces on athletes. At the scene of a sports injury, athletic trainers may be the first or only healthcare professionals available. They identify and assess a player’s injuries. If necessary, they administer first aid care. Athletic trainers also work with players after an injury, helping them to recuperate by planning and implementing rehabilitation programs with the input of licensed team or consulting physicians and other healthcare professionals.
About one-quarter of athletic trainers work with college and university sports teams, while others work with professional teams or military personnel. Athletic trainers in these work environments are likely to be on the field along with the team, ready to handle injuries. Other athletic trainers work in fitness centers or in more traditional healthcare facilities, like hospitals and doctors’ offices. Athletic trainers work with a variety of age groups, from children on little league teams to grown adults on professional sports teams or in the military.
Aspiring athletic trainers should begin their career preparation by earning a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from a college or university accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. These programs expose students to clinical experience as well as classroom learning. Students will cover subjects of study such as anatomy and physiology, biology and nutrition. They may gain clinical experience through working at on-campus sports facilities or with local teams affiliated with their school. Some athletic trainers choose to earn a graduate degree to enhance their career prospects and their opportunities for advancement.
Though athletic trainers are not medical doctors, they do play an important part in healthcare, and they must possess certain knowledge and skills to do their work successfully. Many states require that athletic trainers hold a license. While each state sets its own requirements, most require that students pass an examination from the independent Board of Certification, Inc., as well as holding a degree from an accredited school and meeting other requirements.
Athletic trainers earn a median salary of $42,090 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These healthcare professionals can look forward to a very positive job outlook, specifically if they intend to work with youth, college or university teams. The BLS expects job opportunities for athletic trainers to increase by 21 percent over a ten-year period, which is much faster than the 11 percent expected job growth for all occupations. Athletic trainers who work directly with sports teams on the field also enjoy the opportunity to travel frequently.
Athletic trainers work with athletes to prevent sports injuries from happening in the first place or to diagnose and treat injuries that have occurred. They provide immediate first aid care and help wounded athletes with long-term recovery by developing and overseeing rehabilitation plans that get patients back on their feet and on the field.