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This article series is an in-depth look at current topics relevant to and written by our staff Athletic Trainers. A main purpose is to share the experiences and meaning of what is like to be an Athletic Trainer and spread awareness of this emerging profession. We hope you enjoy the read and come back often for updates and new articles!

What is a Sparrow Athletic Trainer? By Roger Doak AT

What is a Sparrow Athletic Trainer? I actually receive this question quite often from the parents, family, or fellow Lansing community members of the student athletes I provide services for. My short answer in most cases consists of “I’m the guy who takes care of the athletes when they get hurt.” Half the time that response will quell any further curiosity. Sometimes I do get the chance to strike up a conversation and explain the career I chose and love to do. Despite official recognition as an allied health care profession from the American Medical Association (AMA) over two decades ago in 1990, the general public’s awareness of the full scope of the Athletic Training profession is lacking. By the generally accepted basic AMA definition of an Athletic Trainer is “a healthcare professional that collaborates with physicians to optimize activity and participation of patients and clients. Athletic Training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis, and intervention of emergency, acute, and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations, and disabilities.” A very long and somewhat vague description but overall it is very hard to define Athletic Training in a mere two sentences, that is what the next few paragraphs in my own words are for! To me, the fundamental ideology behind being an Athletic Trainer is; what is best solution for the situation (injury) with the best possible outcome (treatment/ return to play/ referral) for the Athlete or Patient. This rule applies to nearly all aspects of my daily duties whether it be evaluating and diagnosing an ACL tear in an Athlete’s knee or something as mundane as having the referral paperwork completely filled out and understood by the Athlete or their parents. Next let’s break down some major duties of Athletic Training, minimizing the risk of injury/illness through awareness, education, intervention and the evaluation and treatment of sustained injuries. Awareness is the observation of practices, competitions, physical training protocols and other such activities with the intent and knowledge to notice potentially hazardous situations and correct them. A prime example of this is during the beginning of football practices; often a drill will be executed poorly/inappropriately and simply correcting a technique during the drill prevents potential future injuries, ultimately reducing costs and time needed if the injury was allowed to occur. Education is the instructing of proper techniques as well as being a conduit of information for the Athlete in regards to common injuries in their sport as well as information on how to treat and care for a current injury. A great example of this would be preseason lectures and handouts pertaining to proper hydration and nutrition, outlining current guidelines suggested by the American College of Sports Medicine, in an effort to prevent any issues/injuries/ER visits from poor nutrition or inadequate hydration. Intervention is the development of programs to prevent or enhance current physical training or practice methods. In the past I have personally developed lower body plyometric programs to help reduce the frequency of ACL tears among my female youth teams. It is the evaluation and treatment of sustained injuries, that is by far the most important and prevalent job responsibility of the athletic trainer. Evaluation consists of recognizing signs and symptoms of injury, as well as utilizing appropriate neurological and musculoskeletal testing procedures (way too many to list) to form a proper impression of the injury. Once a clinical impression is made, it is used as a basis for appropriate treatment, rehabilitation through therapeutic and conditioning exercises, bracing, taping, splinting, reassessment and reevaluation of injuries, and referral to a physician or specialist if needed, all in an effort to restore an individual to their highest level of function. To be able to perform all of these duties Athletic Trainers must go through some demanding educational programs first. At a bare minimum any personal that is a legally nationally Certified or state Licensed Athletic Trainer must have gone through a four year Baccalaureate degree program and actually according to the National Athletic Trainers Association nearly 70% of Athletic Trainers have a Masters degree or higher. All of that education follows a curriculum that includes formal instruction in:
  • Professional Responsibilities
  • Health Care Administration
  • Pharmacology
  • Sport Psychology intervention and referral
  • Therapeutic Modalities
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Rehabilitative Exercise
  • Rehabilitative Therapy
  • General medical conditions and disabilities
  • Acute care of injuries and illnesses
  • Risk management and injury/illness prevention
  • Pathology of injury/illness
  • Clinical examination and diagnosis
  • In most programs there are mandated rotation hours outside of the classroom time as well, in my personal experience by the time I was done with my four rotations and my internship I had over 1,100 hours of direct event observation/ injury evaluation/ injury treatment before I even sat to take my Board of Certification test. Every practicing Athletic Trainer must past that test to be eligible to be certified or become licensed in their state. Athletic Trainers provide services in many varied positions or career paths. Some of these settings include, Professional Sports, Colleges and Universities, Hospital based clinics, Private Sports Medicine clinics, Secondary (High) Schools, Physician offices, Rehabilitation and Therapy clinics, Industrial/Occupational work hardening, Military, and Performing Arts. Here at Sparrow the Athletic Trainers are primarily contracted to provide services to 8 of the local area High Schools, we also do have Athletic Training staff in our Outpatient Physical Therapy departments as well as in select orthopedic physician offices as well. If you are interested in learning more about Athletic Trainers or the profession please check out the following links: American Medical Association National Athletic Trainers Association Board of Certification Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education