The Certified Athletic Trainer and the Athletic Training Room

Definition of an Athletic Trainer

  • Athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of emergent, acute, or chronic injuries and medical conditions. Athletic training is recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an allied healthcare profession (see National Athletic Trainers’ Association [NATA] )

  • Athletic trainers (ATs) are highly qualified, multiskilled healthcare professionals who render service or treatment under the direction of a physician (see Chapter 1 : “The Team Physician”) in accordance with their education, their training, and their state’s statutes, rules, and regulations (see NATA )

  • They are uniquely qualified, allied healthcare providers who are optimally suited as front-line gate keepers and first responders for all athletic-related healthcare issues.

  • ATs provide services including injury and illness prevention, emergency care, on-field and clinical diagnosis, patient education, and rehabilitation and therapeutic intervention of acute and chronic injuries and illnesses.

  • ATs also act as a liaison between the physician, patient, coaching staff, and support staff to coordinate effective patient-centered care, establishing effective communication as one of the most important responsibilities of an AT.


  • Traditional

    • High school, college, and professional sports

  • Nontraditional


  • To sit for the board of certification examination, candidates must graduate from a professional program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). At this time students may choose a bachelor’s-level or a master’s-level professional program, but effective in 2022, all CAATE-accredited programs will be fully transitioned to being offered at the master’s level. Athletic Training Curriculum Competencies (5th edition CAATE), 2011 (; accessed March 2021) as follows:

    • Evidence-based practice

    • Prevention and health promotion

    • Clinical examination and diagnosis

    • Acute care of injury and illness

    • Therapeutic interventions

    • Psychosocial strategies and referral

    • Healthcare administration

    • Professional development and responsibility

  • Seventy percent of ATs possess a master’s or doctorate degree

  • Post-professional education

    • Residency/fellowship: An emerging aspect of an AT’s education is optional post-professional residencies or fellowships. These programs are designed to provide an advanced level of clinical and didactic education in specialized areas.


As of March 2020, 49 states plus the District of Columbia require licensure or registration to practice as an AT. Efforts continue to enact licensure in California.

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