This article defines and describes the academic discipline of athletic training. Athletic training is discussed in the context of its professional organization, the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and through the discussion of athletic training education programs and the program accreditation process. Important topics in the development of athletic training students are also addressed including professional development, learning styles and teaching methods. The development of professionalism and suggestions for developing students' professionalism are offered as well as research on the learning styles of athletic training students. Effective teaching methods are also discussed within the context of the clinical education setting.
Keywords Accreditation; Allied Health; Athletic Trainer; Athletic Training Programs (ATEPs); Cognitive Sequential; Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE); Gregorc Mind Styles; Learning Styles; National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA); Peer-Assisted Learning; Reflective Journaling/Learning Log; Teaching Methods
Physical Education: Athletic Training
The athletic training profession is a part of the allied health field. Athletic trainers provide health care in the areas of physical medicine and rehabilitation services by helping prevent, assessing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries (National Athletic Trainers Association, 2007). Athletic trainers also coordinate health care with physicians and other similar health professionals like physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physicians assistants. They typically work in high schools, colleges, professional sports, hospitals, corporations, clinics, and the military (NATA, 2007a). Approximately, 50% of certified athletic trainers are employed outside the traditional 'school' setting (NATA, 2007). Still, common sites of employment are the athletic programs in colleges, universities, and secondary schools.
In the secondary school or collegiate setting, athletic trainers are often the first health professional that treats an injured athlete (AAHPERD, 2007). Within the secondary school setting, certified athletic trainers provide important support to the athletic programs as important members of the allied health care team since team physicians are not typically on staff for all or any athletic events (AAHPERD, 2007). Athletic trainers working in a secondary school setting may be responsible for nutritional counseling, aspects of athletes' rehabilitation programs, strength and conditioning, and injury prevention and treatment (taping, bracing, etc.) pre-game and pre-practice.
During games and practices, athletic trainers evaluate injuries that occur and determine whether the athlete should see a physician or if the injury can be treated and managed by the athletic training staff. The secondary school athletic trainer may be employed full-time by the school as the certified athletic trainer, he or she may also be a teacher in the school (e.g., physical education or health teacher), or he or she may be contracted to work for the high school's athletic program through a private sports medicine clinic or corporation.
The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), founded in 1950, is a membership association for athletic trainers who are certified as well as individuals who are interested in the athletic training career (NATA, 2007). The association serves to set standards and guidelines for the athletic training profession. A very active professional organization, the NATA also provides up-to-date guidelines for the treatment of frequently occurring illnesses and injuries (e.g., heat-related illness, head injuries), professional conferences, continuing education opportunities, position papers on controversial topics, information on the profession, promotion of research, legislation/political activism that will impact health care and the field of athletic training, and information targeting individuals who engage in physical activity.
Certified athletic trainers are required to have earned a bachelor's degree in athletic training, have successfully passed a rigorous three-part certification examination, engage in continuing education, and adhere to the guidelines and polices that are set forth by the National Association (NATA, 2007b). The undergraduate curriculum for athletic training education includes classroom and clinical-based education. The coursework includes the following foundation courses/subject areas: “human anatomy, human physiology, kinesiology/biomechanics, nutrition, statistics and research design, strength training and reconditioning, and acute injury and illness” (NATA, 2007, p. 1).
Students are also required to complete coursework in the professional areas of: “risk management of injury/illness prevention, pathology of injury/illness, assessment of injury/illness, general medical conditions and disabilities, therapeutic modalities, therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation, health care administration, weight management and body composition, psychosocial intervention and referral, medical ethics and legal issues, pharmacology, and professional development and responsibilities” (NATA, 2007b, p. 1).
Athletic training education programs (ATPs) require two years of clinical setting education that includes attending to patients with general medical ailments (NATA, 2007). After students have completed their initial entry-level athletic training education through an accredited program, the student may sit for the Board of Certification, Inc. Examination in order to become an Athletic Trainer, Certified (ATC). The examination process ensures that students are educated and trained in “prevention, recognition, evaluation, and assessment, immediate care, treatment, rehabilitation, and reconditioning, organization and administration, and professional development” (Athletic Training Education Program Educational Goals and Objectives, 2006).
While the NATA and Board of Certification, Inc. both provide professional preparation and ethical guidelines for the profession of athletic training, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) is an independent organization that is responsible for accrediting and monitoring athletic training education/preparation programs and their curricula. The CAATE aims to "develop, maintain, and promote appropriate minimum standards of quality of entry level Athletic Training education programs" (CAATE, 2006, p. 2).
In order for an institution's athletic training program to become accredited, the institution must successfully meet a rigorous set of standards including, but not limited to, institutional sponsorship, appropriate and sufficient staffing (including program director and clinical instruction staff), a physician who acts as a consultant to the program, sufficient support and administrative staff, financial resources, physical resources (i.e., facilities, equipment, clinic), operational plan and policies, and curriculum design and course development (CAATE, 2006). These standards are to be met and documented in the comprehensive review process, which includes an extensive self-study report and on-site visit to verify the self-study report and decide how well the program is meeting the standards set by CAATE (CAATE, 2006).
After the on-site visit, a report of the findings from the visit is submitted to the program and they are required to submit a rejoinder outlining and responding to each point of deficiency that was noted by the initial visit report. Once accreditation application materials are submitted, the application review process takes approximately one year. Athletic training education programs may or may not be fully accredited. Accreditation is valid for five years and continuing accreditation for seven years. Programs may be placed on “probation, withholding, withdrawing accreditation, and voluntary withdrawal of accreditation” (CAATE, 2006, p. 1).
Undergraduate and graduate athletic...
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