Athletic Training Education

lindsey hagler athletic trainerHave you ever wondered about the credentials of the person rehabbing your strained hamstring? On the other hand, maybe you’ve been curious about what regulatory oversight there is for the medical professional on the sports field with your high school athlete. What are the athletic training education requirements, and how does one become an athletic trainer, anyway?

Athletic Training Education Basics

The goal is to create highly skilled and knowledgeable allied health care professionals. To achieve this, athletic training education requires at least a bachelor’s degree from a nationally accredited program. This accreditation ensures that all athletic trainers meet the same minimum competencies required for their job. However, most athletic trainers have exceeded this minimum education requirement. In fact, nearly 70% of all athletic trainers have their master’s degree, as well.

The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) oversees the core skills in which each athletic trainer must demonstrate proficiency. CAATE also performs regular audits of accredited programs to guarantee compliance. In addition to learning the required skills, athletic training students must pass a national exam through a separate organization, the Board of Certification (BOC).

Athletic Training Education New Requirements

As of 2015, the National Athletic Trainers Association, CAATE, and the BOC, jointly agreed that a master’s degree is the new minimum level of education. CAATE accredited programs have until 2022 to comply with this new degree requirement. Of course, an exception is in place for the 30% of athletic trainers currently practicing without a master’s level education. They will continue to work under the pre-2015 requirements.

Continuing Education

BOC approved providerIn addition to the national exam, the BOC is also responsible for ensuring that all athletic trainers complete at least 50 credit hours of continuing education every two years. This continuing education requirement ensures that athletic trainers remain current in their ability to recognize and treat injuries.

State of Oregon Oversight

Individual states also have requirements of athletic trainers. For example, in Oregon, all athletic trainers must register with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). In addition, they must sign an affidavit verifying that they have kept up with continuing education requirements. The OHA may audit athletic trainers, and request that they provide records of compliance with BOC requirements.

As you can see, athletic trainers are subject to many layers of education and oversight. They must complete a rigorous course load, pass a national exam, register with the state, provide proof of compliance with agency requirements, and complete 50 credit hours of continuing education every two years. The result is a professional, knowledgeable, and competent athletic trainer caring for you or your young athlete when you need them most.

Please visit www.nata.org if you would like to learn more about athletic trainer educational requirements, CAATE, and the BOC.

Written by: Michael Estes, MS, ATC athletic trainer for The Center Foundation and Crook County High School in Prineville, OR. Learn more about Michael HERE.

The Center Foundation places dedicated athletic trainers in local high schools to provide sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. Learn more about our work HERE.

Mental Health for Athletes

female softball player aloneKeeping an athlete’s physical body strong and healthy is the primary focus of athletic trainers. However, they also take care of what can’t be bandaged or splinted – the athlete’s mental health.

Injury and Mental Health

It is true that many young people will deal with mental health issues at some point in their lives. In fact, one study on the mental health of young athletes suggests that as many as 10% will experience mild to severe depression and anxiety at some point in their high school career. If left untreated, the results can be devastating.

For that reason, mental health in young athletes is worth studying and understanding. Often, injury can open the door to underlying emotional issues. For example, when a young athlete becomes injured, their mental health can suffer for a variety of reasons, including; chronic pain, loss of ability to participate, pressure from not performing as well as they would like, or as a symptom of concussion.

The Role of Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers are not the main provider that an athlete will see for help with mental health issues. However, they are often a person that the athlete sees daily. Many young athletes confide in their athletic trainers, and injured athletes may visit them daily. Because of this consistent contact, an athletic trainer can quickly recognize changes in mental state. Athletic trainers often spot a struggling athlete and point them in the right direction to get help. Recognizing early and referring appropriately can make all the difference in getting the young person back on track and feeling better.

Warning Signs

There are different warning signs for different mental health issues. Generally, keep an eye out for sudden changes in thoughts or behaviors, feeling extreme highs or lows, social withdrawal, dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits, inability to manage responsibility, frequent outbursts of anger, confused thinking, excessive fears, worries and anxieties. A number or resources are available for athletes to utilize when they are having any issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders or not feeling quite right. Mental Health America, NCAA Sport Science Institute, and MentalHealth.gov are a few online resources that can help if you or someone you know is struggling.

Protecting Mental Health

There are a few ways that you can proactively protect your mental health. For example, eat a well- balanced nutritious diet, avoid sugar, caffeine and processed foods, exercise regularly, meditate or practice mindfulness, and establish a strong support network. Above all, never hesitate to seek counseling or the help of a mental healthcare practitioner when needed. Finally, it is important to remember that it is okay to not be okay. Sometimes young athletes have injuries that are not visible to anyone else. Athletic trainers are there to help with all injuries, visible or not.

celebrating softball players

Written by: Alex Walker, ATC athletic trainer for The Center Foundation and Sisters High School in Sisters, OR. Learn more about Alex HERE.

The Center Foundation places dedicated athletic trainers in local high schools to provide sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. Learn more about our work HERE.

References:

Weber, Stephanie et al. “Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Young Athletes Using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale” Frontiers in physiology vol. 9 182. 7 Mar. 2018, doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00182. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5845908/ (accessed online 12/12/2018)