What is Athletic Training
A lot of people don’t know what athletic training is. My short explanation is that it’s basically sports medicine. It’s not personal training, it’s not strength and conditioning--which are fitness professions, not healthcare professions. Athletic training actually really has nothing to do with “training” at all. Sure, we can teach and train athletes the right way to move to reduce risk of injury or how to improve their performance, but what we really do is prevent, treat, manage, and rehabilitate acute and chronic injuries and illnesses. We are the first responders to an injury that happens on the field. We are certified EMRs and certified healthcare professionals with training in acute care of injury and illness, therapeutic modalities, pharmacology, general and emergency medicine and disabilities, therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise, nutrition, psychosocial intervention, clinical examination and diagnosis, and more. We have to have a broad scope of knowledge in everything--nutrition; biomechanics; anatomy, physiology, and biology; pharmacology; general medicine; and more--to be able to identify potential problems and risk factors that may lead to injury to either stop it before injury happens, or change it to prevent future injury.
Athletic training is hard because of everything we have to know. My class at Springfield College started off with 35 students in the beginning of freshman year. Now, entering our junior year next fall, we are down to 10 students because people either learned what athletic training actually is and didn’t want to continue, or realized it’s not something you can BS your way through. You have to know what you’re talking about because you can literally have someone’s life in your hands. The education is intense. It happens to be the hardest undergraduate major at my school--I have about 10-12 classes every semester (usually you have about 5-7), and we have to maintain a B- average (80%) in all of our major-specific classes in order to stay in the program.
I’m talking it up like it’s the hardest thing in the world, but it’s not. If you’re focused and driven, it’s rather, I don’t want to say easy, but doable. And I think the end results are worth it. Unlike other healthcare professions where you treat the injury and illness and never see the patient again, we actually get to work with the athletes through their season. We might be there when they get injured, and then we get to help them through their entire rehabilitation. After they’re healed, we get to see them go back to playing. We get the full circle of that athlete’s injury, which I think is more fulfilling than just treating them and never seeing them again. We get to see them return to the sport in which their world revolves around. We get to watch them grow, as an athlete and an individual, and grow with them. And I think that’s really cool.
The education and learning of athletic training is as hard as you want it to be, really. Let’s look at an M.D. for example. If someone graduates dead last in their medical program, they still get the degree, and they’re still called a doctor. If you still pass the classes, even if you barely scrape by, if you pass the Board of Certification, well, then, congratulations. You’re just as much a medical professional as the person who graduated valedictorian. If you want to try something, go for it. Don’t worry about how hard or easy something will be or how much effort you think you’re going to need to put in. You can always change your mind along the way or later, and that’s perfectly okay.