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What is an Athletic Trainer?

kerrygustafson

FACTS about Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers work under the direction of physicians. ATs are clinically and academically qualified to medically treat patients and clients of all ages in any physical setting. Public safety, injury and illness prevention, and early intervention are keystones to the practice of athletic training.

1. FACT: Athletic trainers know and practice health care at the highest professional, ethical and quality standards in order to protect the public.

Athletic training is practiced by athletic trainers, health care professionals who collaborate 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. Members of the NATA must agree to abide by the Association’s Code of Ethics. The Board of Certification Inc. requires that all credential holders abide by the Standards of Practice.

2. FACT: Athletic trainers are regulated and licensed health care workers.

While practice act oversight varies by state, athletic trainers practice under state statutes recognizing them as qualified health care professionals similar to physical therapists, occupational therapists and other health care professionals. Athletic training licensure/regulation exists in 46 states, with aggressive efforts underway to pursue licensure in the remaining states and to update outdated licensure. Athletic trainers practice under the direction of physicians.

3. FACT: More than 50 percent of athletic trainers work outside of school athletic settings; they provide services to people of all ages.

Athletic trainers work in physician offices as physician extenders. They also work in rural and urban hospitals, hospital emergency rooms, urgent and ambulatory care centers, military hospitals, physical therapy clinics, secondary schools, colleges/universities, youth leagues, commercial settings and professional sports teams. They are in great demand for their versatile health and wellness services and injury and illness prevention skills. The skills of ATs have been sought and valued by sports medicine specialists and other physicians for more than 60 years. As the U.S. continues its focus on reducing the effects of obesity and other chronic diseases, it is important that people have access to health care professionals who can support lifelong, safe physical activity. ATs are an important part of the health care workforce, especially as the demand for workers is projected to greatly increase over the next decade.

4. FACT: ATs improve patient functional and physical outcomes.

Results from a nationwide Medical Outcomes Survey demonstrate that care provided by ATs effects a significant change in all outcome variables measured, with the greatest change in functional outcomes and physical outcomes. The investigation indicates that care provided by ATs generates a positive change in health-related quality of life patient outcomes. (Ref: Albohm MJ, Wilkerson GB. An outcomes assessment of care provided by certified athletic trainers. Journal of Rehabilitation Outcomes Measure 1999; 3 (3):51-56.)

5. FACT: ATs specialize in patient education to prevent injury and re-injury and reduce rehabilitative and other health care costs.

Recent studies, reports, outcomes measurement surveys, total joint replacement studies and many other case studies demonstrate how the services of ATs save money for employers and improve quality of life for patients. For each $1 invested in preventive care, employers gained up to a $7 return on investment according to one NATA survey. The use of athletic trainers supports a quality-driven health care economy that increases competition in order to reduce patient and disease costs. With proper rehabilitation and evaluation, athletic trainers prevent re-injury. The patient’s standard of care is enhanced, not sacrificed, with ATs.

6. FACT: ATs provide the same or better outcomes in clinical settings as other providers.

Results of a comparative analysis of care provided by athletic trainers and physical therapists in a clinical setting indicated ATs provide the same levels of outcomes, value and patient satisfaction as physical therapists in a clinical setting (Ref: Reimbursement of Athletic Training by Albohm, MJ; Campbell, Konin, pp. 25). Patient satisfaction ratings are more than 96 percent when treatment is provided by ATs. ATs are generally an alternative – not an additional – provider of physical medicine therapies. ATs are an “or” not an “and”; therefore, costs for providing therapy are not increased with the use of athletic training services.

7. FACT: ATs work in rural and medically underserved areas and with people of all ages.

ATs are accustomed to working in urgent care environments that have challenging – sometimes even adverse – work and environmental conditions. The athletic training tradition and hands-on clinical and academic education combine to create health care professionals who are flexible and inventive – ideal managers of patient care and health care delivery.

8. FACT: Athletic trainers are well-known, recognized, qualified health care professionals.

ATs are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals and have been part of the American Medical Association’s Health Professions Career and Education Directory for more than a decade. Athletic trainers are assigned National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers like all other health care professionals. The taxonomy code for athletic trainers is 2255A2300X. Additionally, the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine – among others – are all strong clinical and academic supporters of athletic trainers.

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Testimonials from Employers and Friends of Athletic Trainers

Physicians, Hospitals and Clinics

“Athletic trainers are a committed, essential component to physicians delivering the highest standard of team medical care to the patients of the Andrews Institute. They know how to relate to the patient so his or her recovery is as quick as safely allowable, whether that person is a professional or youth athlete or just an average mom or dad.” -- James Andrews, MD, Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Birmingham, Ala.

“Athletic trainers help enhance a physician’s communication with patients by serving as another source of expert information that patients can absorb. Athletic trainers are a key part of our sports medicine service delivery model.” -- John Xerogeanes, MD, Chief of Sports Medicine, Emory Orthopedics and Spine Center, Atlanta, Ga.

“I realized early on in my career that ATs are the only health care professionals who devote their entire education and professional lives to taking care of active people. My patients experience excellent outcomes as a result of therapy provided by ATs. My patients love working with them. ATs are a value added service to my practice. I could not do without them.” -- Thomas D. Kohl,MD, medical director, family practice physician; Director, Sports Medicine, Comprehensive Athletic Treatment Center, Wyomissing, Pa. Legislators and Regulators

“As a state legislator concerned with health policy, affordable and accessible health care for all people is my primary concern. We must look for innovative solutions to providing health care because of the increasing shortages of nurses and other health care workers. One of the best ways to deliver health care services in the community is to better utilize certified athletic trainers. Athletic trainers are multi-skilled health care professionals who provide a unique combination of injury and illness treatment and rehabilitation with a substantial dose of injury prevention and general wellness.” -- Former Representative Jerry Krummel, Oregon House of Representatives, District 26

Occupational and Industrial Setting

“Our company has had a certified athletic trainer on site since 2000 and since that time we have recognized the tremendous upside in the tangible and intangible benefits of this addition, including a savings of more than $245,000 in just 2002 alone in health care-related expenditures. We have also experienced a decrease of 67 percent for health care costs related to the low back. Additionally, our days away from work have decreased by 60 percent in the last three years. In the industrial setting, these results can be best accomplished by an individual with the medical knowledge and training of an athletic trainer. We wouldn’t have it any other way and will continue this program for the long term.” -- James E. Marotz, DO, corporate medical director at Appleton Papers, Appleton, Wis. 1014 rev. 03/09