Before I discuss the role of the Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), I think
it is important for the reader to realize the significance of the ATC.
In a report by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, only
55 percent of athletes at public schools have access to a full-time athletic
trainer. Most school administrators, especially after the recent recession,
cite lack of funding. Yet a 2012 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics
makes a good case that student athletes are safer when ATCs are around.
At schools without ATCs, recurrent injury rates were 5.7 times higher
among soccer players and three times higher among basketball players.
High schools with ATCs also reported more concussions; that is a good
thing because this underdiagnosed condition can lead to more serious injuries.
So what are the different hats an athletic trainer must wear?
Overseeing the general care of student athletes
Even before the school nurse goes home, the athletic trainer arrives on
campus to begin the daily routine of injury evaluations and rehabilitation,
protective taping, coordinating practice preparation, concussion testing,
monitoring weather conditions, instituting return to play protocol, discussing
statuses with coaches and covering different athletic events. All of these
duties keep the athletic trainer busy long after the sun goes down.
Coordinating care and directing preventative care for injuries
The athletic trainer works with athletes in different stages of recovery.
This includes injury prevention workouts, on the field evaluations and
return to play protocols to ensure that an athlete has safely recovered
before they return to the field of play.
Providing referrals and expediting medical care for injured athletes
Most athletic trainers have developed relationships with the community
physicians. This is important because it allows the athletic trainer to
communicate with the physicians to make sure the student athlete is progressing
as expected and following the physician’s rehabilitation protocol
for safe return to play.
Assisting in the development of an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
School districts should have an EAP in place for every venue its teams
use for practice and play. The athletic trainer is the coordinator of
this plan. They have the knowledge of how to plan for and respond to an
emergency situation. They work with local Emergency Medical Technicians
(EMTs), paramedics and other first responders as well as school staff,
including coaches, to develop a response protocol in the event of an injured
athlete, coach or spectator.
Overseeing the athletic department and coaches to ensure compliance with
A number of states have set forth legislation on many topics for student
athlete safety related to issues of sudden cardiac death, heat exposure
and concussion. Georgia recently enacted the HB284 Return to Play Act
which states that school systems must institute return to play policies
for young athletes who get a concussion and educate parents and coaches
on the risks of concussions. It is part of the athletic trainers’
job to develop programs to educate students, coaches and parents about
different health issues.
Directing educational and in-service programs for administrators, teachers,
coaches and community
School districts are increasingly concerned about a wide range of student
health issues, including MRSA, exertional heat illness and concussion.
An athletic trainer can help disseminate this information to the community
by educating teachers, administrators, coaches and parents. These in-service
programs are important to stress the importance of these conditions and
how they can be properly prevented and treated.
So the next time you see your school’s athletic trainer, please thank
him/her for the hard work they do to keep our student athletes safe.
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