Certified Athletic Trainers

Almost 7 million student-athletes participate in high school sports programs today with additional numbers in middle school and summer league programs. Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs) are some of the most comprehensively prepared allied medical professionals, trained to deal with the injuries of these young athletes. Over 70% of ATCs have a master’s or a doctorate degree and must pass national certification exams in addition to their state licensure exams.  These multi-skilled allied health professionals are strongly supported, academically and clinically by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

ATCs handle emergency and non-emergency situations that arise from sport and physical activity. Injury prevention, assessment, management, treatment and rehabilitation are the five main areas in which Certified Athletic Trainers are uniquely trained. Risk Management and Injury Prevention training allows ATCs to develop and implement comprehensive emergency action plans. They also identify unsafe field or environmental conditions and monitor and provide the proper intervention for heat-related illnesses.

When an injury does occur, ATCs are there to provide “on the field” or “on the court” immediate assessments. Based on the information gained they can then provide the best and most efficient injury management protocol. These professionals then work with student-athletes on a daily basis to help maximize the healing potential.  Many sports injuries require more aggressive and advanced rehabilitation.  ATCs are prepared to design and implement comprehensive rehabilitation programs that are sports and/or position-specific and age-appropriate.

They are trained in the biomechanics of sport and design rehabilitation programs that include the functional activities needed to return to sport. They have to take into consideration not only the physical, but also the mental and emotional preparation of the injured athlete.  A complete, safe and permanent return to competition after an injury has resolved, requires specialized physical reconditioning that can take place during the rehabilitation process.  In addition to the above skills, they also address the nutritional concerns related to sport. They help identify athletes at risk for nutritional disorders, monitor body composition to reduce the risk of injury and reinforce appropriate weight management strategies.

"Certified athletic trainers are an integral part of our sports medicine team at Wake Forest Baptist Health,” says Heath Thornton, MD, Medical Director of the Athletic Training Outreach Program. “On the playing field or court, they act as our ‘eyes and ears,’ keeping athletes safe and healthy during practices, games, and beyond. They work “one on one” with athletes and patients on a daily basis helping them restore function and return to activity as quickly and safely as possible. ATCs are some of the most qualified medical professionals to respond to the needs of the student-athlete and physically active population.”