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National Athletic Training Month: The Difference Between Athletic Trainers and Personal Trainers

John Cain, ATC, BS, CSCSBy: John Cain, ATC, BS, CSCS of Ogle County Physical Therapy

Athletic trainers are often confused with personal trainers.  There is a large difference in education, skill set, job duties and patients/clients of an athletic trainer as compared to a personal trainer.

Athletic trainers (AT's) are health care professionals. To become a certified athletic trainer one must obtain a Bachelor of Science or Masters Degree from an accredited college and pass a comprehensive exam administered by the National Athletic Trainers Association Board of Certification.  Once certified, athletic trainers must meet continuing education requirements in order to maintain certification.

The scope of practice of an athletic trainer includes injury/wellness protection/prevention, examination, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries. 

Athletic trainers work under the guidance of physicians.  They can work in or with professional, college, high school, junior high school and club athletes.  This also includes patients in hospitals, physicians' offices and physical therapy clinics as well as those in the military, police and fire departments, and industries.  All according to the state practice acts and education received through schooling. 

The competencies of athletic trainers as established by the National Athletic Trainers Association are:

1. Risk management and injury prevention

2. Pathology of injuries and illness

3. Orthopedic clinical evaluations

4. General medical conditions and disabilities

5. Acute care of injuries and illness

6. Therapeutic modalities

7. Conditioning and rehabilitation exercises

8. Pharmacology

9. Psychosocial intervention and referral

10. Nutritional aspects of injuries and illness

11. Health care administration

12. Professional development and responsibilities