Role of Some Athletic Trainers Shifted Because of COVID

Athletic trainers (ATs) provide health care both on and off the field.

As schools closed and sports in secondary, high school, and on college campuses ceased, certified athletic trainers (ATs) sought new ways to provide service and make a living during the pandemic.

We might think of athletic trainers as only the people who race on the football field when a player is injured. We see their concern as they evaluate the athlete and provide aid.

In truth, these skilled healthcare professionals are used in almost all sports to provide injury services, emergency care, therapy, diagnosis, and rehabilitation based on their education, training, and state statutes under a physician’s direction.

ATs usually decide where to send an athlete for additional care when an injury happens – often to an urgent care facility, an emergency room, or follow-up care with the athlete’s physician.

Recognized Health Care

These specialized healthcare workers are recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as allied health care professionals.

Because of the training, education, certification, and knowledge of medical services, ATs found themselves working less on the field and more in hospitals to relieve staff in emergency departments with evaluating COVID patients.

ATs also continued working with sports groups to implement safe return to play policies or treat athletes with rehabilitation and therapy through remote channels.

And as high schools and college sports resume, Athletic Trainers are leading the way in establishing protocols, testing, and keeping up with CDC, state, and local mandates to ensure athlete safety.

Athletic trainers are licensed or regulated in 49 states and the District of Columbia. California is the only state that does not regulate ATs.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is working on updating qualifications and practices in all states to ensure that obsolete methods do not reflect negatively on the practice of ATs.


In Wyoming, the athletic trainer revisions bill is being considered to broaden and expand the scope of practice. If passed, the bill would allow ATs to work in industrial fields, construction, and work with firefighters and first responders.

The bill allows ATs to provide telehealth services in rural areas and at times when it’s not possible to be with the injured person.

In Alabama, Senate Bill 73 is being considered. This bill would amend and update the existing athletic training practice act to reflect current education and training levels to provide more comprehensive access to health care.

SB 73 establishes an Athletic Training Advisory Council between the Board of Medical Examiners and the Alabama Board of Athletic Trainers.

Proponents say the bill would allow certified or licensed athletic trainers to evaluate a person’s injuries and make recommendations for further health care.

Opponents say the bill might make it possible for ATs to legally treat physically active individuals without a clear medical definition for almost any condition.

It will be interesting to see how these two bills are developing and how ATs will continue to adapt to serve their communities’ needs.