According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), athletic trainers are “highly qualified multi-skilled health care professionals who render service or treatment, under the direction of or in collaboration with a physician. As a part of the health care team, services provided by athletic trainers include injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, and therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.”
While athletic trainers and physical therapists are both considered allied health care professionals, and are both trained in how to help people recover from injuries, the two professions are not the same and some key differences exist between the two:
- Education: Most physical therapy and athletic trainer degrees are graduate level, meaning a student receives a bachelor’s degree in a related field and then goes on to receive their graduate degree and certification. They then have the option to advance their education through fellowships and specialty certifications. Athletic trainers have two options: an entry-level baccalaureate degree or a graduate level degree. Those who choose the baccalaureate route will receive their bachelor’s degree in athletic training, and are certified at this point. They may then choose to advance their education through a post-professional master’s degree. For those who choose to do an undergraduate degree, this works similar to the physical therapy route in that they receive a bachelor’s degree in a related field, then enter the athletic training program at the master’s level. These students also have the option to advance education through further certifications.
- Job settings: Physical therapists work in multiple settings where physical rehabilitation is greatly needed such as inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities, industrial workplace settings, fitness centers, and even in patients’ homes. While some of these can also be true for athletic trainers, practice settings tend to expand outside of this to include settings involved in the full spectrum of an injury. Examples include secondary schools and universities, clinics and hospital, and emerging settings such as industrial workplace settings and military. Within these professions, athletic trainers are present in these settings because they tend to work with physically active individuals.
- Patient population: Physical therapists treat people all along the spectrum in terms of both age and activity levels due to the variety of settings; whereas, athletic trainers work with individuals who are active in some capacity. This can include athletes, weekend warriors, and people who are active for their jobs.
Most importantly, the goal is to get patients back to full function, whether that be for daily life or for athletic activities. Did you know at Absolute Wellness Center, we have a team of athletic trainers who provide physical rehabilitation for our patients? All are graduate degree certified athletic trainers ready to assist you on your rehabilitation journey, both helping you while you are visiting our facility as well as setting you up with tools to take care of yourself in the future.
March is National Athletic Training Month – be sure to celebrate and thank your athletic trainer for all their hard work!
www.nata.org – National Athletic Trainers’ Association website
www.apta.org – American Physical Therapy Association website
Absolute Wellness Center in Eugene, OR provides sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and more. If you are interested in improving your fitness safely, managing an existing sports injury, or preventing a future one, we can be helpful in getting you started and keeping you going strong. Contact us or give us a call at 541-484-5777.