Athletic Trainers Need More Praise and Recognition

The sporting world is in full swing come the end of October. Volleyball season is ending, travel softball and baseball are ending, football playoffs are just beginning, basketball is starting, and track, soccer, lacrosse, softball, and baseball workouts are starting back up just in time for the Spring season to begin.

As sports seasons overlap, an increasing amount of physical pressure is being placed onto multi-sport athletes who partake in certain sports to “train” for others.

For many athletes in a world of “Spring sport, Summer sport, and Autumn sport,” their momentum never slows.

Now more than ever, it is important that we as sports organizers make sure these athletes have a safe environment to play. That includes proper yet safe conditioning, ample recovery time, and precautions put into place to prevent athlete burnout.

Precautions could include set practice times to allow for recovery, meals provided that include nutrient dense foods, and utilizing athletic trainers across the nation.

To date, there is an estimate of nearly 30,000 athletic trainers currently employed in different facets across the United States.

The National Athletic Trainers Association, NATA, defines athletic trainers as, “health care professionals who collaborate with physicians. The services provided by trainers comprise prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Trainers work under the direction of physicians, as prescribed by state licensure statutes.”

An injured football player on the field being looked after by athletic trainers.

To even become an athletic trainer, individuals must undergo a strenuous and time-consuming program. In most colleges, the athletic trainer courses and clinical training follow a medical model. Athletic trainers must graduate from an accredited baccalaureate or master’s program and then become a certified athletic trainer with an ATC certification upon program completion. Like doctors and physicians, athletic trainers are required to stay up to date on several medical practices and knowledge. However, unlike doctors and physicians, athletic trainers are often underpaid—that’s a story for another day.

Much like athletes, trainers often are assigned to more than one sport per season. A trainer may facilitate basketball and golf, tennis and track, and football alongside volleyball. Say it with me, “athletic trainers often take on the responsibility of multiple full-time jobs when caring for a team.”

Before the athletes are awake, athletic trainers have prepped water stations, emergency kits, and have prepared several individualized recovery plans so that each athlete can perform their best.

While practice is ongoing, trainers are watching out for any signs of an injury that can take place. If an athlete is injured, a trainer immediately steps into action.

After practice is over, the trainers assist in the recovery process. Ice, heat, wrapping, evaluations, and more. When everyone else goes home, the trainer stays put and organizes everything. Then, once one sport is finished for the day, they often switch gears and enter a new practice facility.

Not only do trainers have the same time commitment as athletes, it is often more due to the “double-ups” many sports programs have their trainers placed into. Not only are they present at multiple practices per week, they also travel with the team.

While this does not seem like a lot, the median age of a trainer is often late 20s and early 30s. If you think about it, that is also the median age to start a family.

Athletic trainers are often overlooked in our industry and it is time we change that. These trainers contribute to the overall health and wellness of our athletes. Without them, athletes would not stay healthy. There would be no preventative methods. With athletic trainers we have happier AND healthier athletes, better team morale, less injuries due to muscle prevention and prior muscle rehabilitation, and all around better performing athletes.

Especially upon return from Covid-19, taking care of our athletes are key to sustaining sports numbers and continuing to grow those numbers over the next few years as we rebuild. It is time we applaud athletic trainers for their contributions to the industry.