There are so many places where an athletic trainer can work. I thought it would be fun to share a glimpse into my typical day as an athletic trainer! Some of what I do is very unique and new to the profession.With that said this is a day in my life…
7 am-12 pm: Observe Surgery
- On surgery days I assist in prepping the patient for surgery. I do not scrub in so I help the surgical nurses, PA, and surgeon tie up their gowns. I then watch the surgery and learn different techniques and procedures. Once the surgery is complete I help transfer the patient to the recovery area. I also help clean and sanitize the operating room for the next case.
2:30-7ish pm: Work at Ponderosa High School
- At the high school I assist in evaluations of any injured athlete. I help cover all in season sports teams. I design rehab protocols for injured or post operation athletes. My other responsibilities include mentoring the student athletic trainers and help teach them about the athletic training profession.
8:30-12:30pm: Assist in Clinic @ Steadman Hawkins Clinic
- On clinic days I assist in rooming patients, taking their medical histories, and ordering proper imaging. I also assist in dressing changes and suture removals for post operation patients.
2:30-7ish pm: Work at Ponderosa High School
- Some of my basic responsibilities include setting up water and Gatorade for every team that is practicing. As well as I perform daily duties such as laundry and keeping the athletic training room a clean medical facility.
8:00-12pm: Observe Surgery
2:30-7ish pm: Work at Ponderosa High School
- As an athletic trainer we have to document any injury or treatment that is given to an athlete. This is done when we have down time in between seeing athletes.
8:30 am- 12pm: Assist in Clinic @ Steadman Hawkins Clinic
2:30pm-7ish pm: Work at Ponderosa High School
2:30pm- 10pm: Work at Ponderosa High School
- Typically Friday nights in the fall includes covering the varsity football game. The head athletic trainer travels to all home and away games but I will assist in coverage during home games.
8:00 am- 12 pm: Work at Ponderosa High School
- During the fall season this includes covering JV and Freshman football games. I also will see any injured varsity athlete for treatment. In the winter Saturday morning I am covering basketball practice.
In the evening when I finish at Ponderosa I come home and work on completing my master’s degree.
An athletic trainer in the physician setting is a relatively new profession. The NATA (National Athletic Trainer’s Association) has some great resources explaining the position and the financial benefit an athletic trainer can bring to an orthopedic clinic (1).
- Physician Satisfaction With Residency-Trained Athletic Trainers as Physician Extenders
I am a huge fan of college football and love watching games all day on Saturdays. Watch enough football and you’ll unfortunately be a witness to some rather gruesome injuries. For example this past Saturday Seth Russel (QB for Baylor) dislocated his ankle and was carted off the field (praying for a speedy recovery bud). Other times you’ll see a player be spine boarded when there is a suspected cervical spine injury. Usually this is done for precaution and it is always good to be prepared for this type of injury. With that being said there has been some recent debates over the best way to spine board someone or even to spine board someone at all with a suspected cervical injury. The National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS-COT) have published a new position paper on “EMS Spinal Precautions and the Use of the Long Backboard.”
The change in protocol comes from lack of research support for using the long backboard technique. The position statement outlines the benefits and risks for using a spine board. The side effects for using the spine board include increasing pain, pressure ulcers, patient agitation and comprised respiratory system. People who are recommended to be spine boarded include someone with:
- Blunt trauma and altered level of consciousness
- Spinal pain or tenderness
- Neurologic complaint (e.g., numbness or motor weakness)
- Anatomic deformity of the spine
- High-energy mechanism of injury and any of the following:
- Drug or alcohol intoxication
- Inability to communicate
- Distracting injury
People who are no longer needing to be spine boarded include someone with:
- Normal level of consciousness (Glasgow Coma Score [GCS] 15)
- No spine tenderness or anatomic abnormality
- No neurologic findings or complaints
- No distracting injury
- No intoxication
- Patients with penetrating trauma to the head, neck, or torso and no evidence of spinal injury should not be immobilized on a backboard
(EMS Spine Boarding Position Statement)
The National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA) has also done some research into spine boarding techniques. A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training compared the different spine boarding techniques with the amount of spine movement. The lifts the study looked at include the traditional Log Roll, Lift and Slide technique, and the 6+ Person Lift. Researchers measured axial rotation, flexion-extension, lateral flexion, anteroposterior displacement, distraction, and medial-lateral translation at the C5-C6 spinal segment.The results from this study concluded that the there is ultimately going to be some spinal movement regardless of the lift technique. The researchers also concluded that the 6+ Person technique minimized the extent of motion generated across a globally unstable spinal segment (1). There was also significantly more lateral flexion and axial rotation during the log roll technique when compared with the two others.
Sport medicine is constantly changing and more research is occurring daily to help make sure the best possible care is available for athletes. The new spine boarding techniques should start being visible within the next year if they haven’t been seen already. As an athletic trainer I am going to do everything I can to help make sure the athlete is cared for safely. Spine boarding is an intense situation for everyone involved and ultimately can save someones’ life and/or limbs! AT’s have your back…literally!
This is only one of many life and limb saving stories! Tommy was indeed back boarded and had a full recovery. His story could have ended very differently had the right protocol not been taken by his athletic trainer!
*Disclaimer: Please use this information only for personal use and only perform actions within your scope of practice*
- Del Rossi, G., Horodyski, M. H., Conrad, B. P., Di Paola, C. P., Di Paola, M. J., & Rechtine, G. R. (2008). The 6-Plus–Person Lift Transfer Technique Compared With Other Methods of Spine Boarding. Journal of Athletic Training, 43(1), 6–13.
It takes many years for people to figure out what they want to do for a profession. Athletic training is moving to a master’s based profession. This means that those interested in becoming an athletic trainer obtain a 4 year undergrad degree in a related field of their choosing and then pursue the 2 year accredited athletic training master’s degree. Upon completion of this degree the student is then eligible to sit for the national exam.
Steps to becoming an Athletic Trainer:
1.In order to become an athletic trainer you have to graduate from an accredited bachelor’s or master’s program in order to be eligible to sit for the national certification exam. The Board of Certification (BOC) is the national certification governing body for the exam. Many undergraduate athletic training programs are being phased out due to the switch to the emphasis on the master’s degree.The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education is the accrediting body for undergraduate and graduate athletic training programs. There are over 360 accredited athletic training programs in the country!
2. Once you complete an accredited program you are now eligible to sit for the national exam. The national exam consists of 175 questions. There are 3 types of questions; multiple choice, stand alone, and focused testlets. The candidate only has 4 hours to complete the exam. There is a registration process online through the board of certification for the athletic trainer (BOC). The accrediting program director also has to approve the student who wishes to take the exam. The test cost is $300 and scores are based on 200-800 scale with 500 being the passing score. There are 5 two-week testing periods throughout the year of when the exam is administered.
3. In order to stay certified you have to maintain continuing education requirements. To maintain your certification as an athletic trainer you have to get 50 hours of CEU’s or continuing education units every 2 years. Of those 50 hours 10 hours have to be from evidence based practice material. You also have to maintain current emergency cardiac care licensure.
Athletic training is a very unique profession and is extremely gratifying! Here are the links to find out more information about how to become an athletic trainer!
NATA Becoming Certified
BOC Exam Eligibility