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March is National Athletic Training Month. Dan Evans, a certified athletic trainer and athletic training coordinator with Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center’s Orthopedic Sports Medicine Center, talks below about his work and the preparation needed to become a certified athletic trainer. He can be reached at 530-2020.

What is a certified athletic trainer?

Certified athletic trainers are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians and other health care providers. We specialize in prevention, emergency care, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses.

How do you become a certified athletic trainer?

You must obtain, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from an accredited athletic training program. As of 2020, it will be a master’s degree only. Then you must pass a comprehensive exam to obtain the ATC credential.

We are then required to keep our knowledge and skills current through continuing education. We must adhere to standards of professional practice set by one national certifying agency and to a national code of ethics. Currently, more than 90 percent of all certified athletic trainers hold a master’s degree or higher.

Where can you work as a certified athletic trainer?

Athletic trainers can be employed in clinics or hospitals; industrial, occupational or corporate settings; colleges and universities; and secondary schools. We can also work in professional sports; Olympic sports; amateur, recreational or youth sports; the performing arts; the military; and fire and law enforcement settings.

Is there a difference between a certified athletic trainer and a personal trainer?

Yes, an athletic trainer is a medical professional and an expert at recognizing, treating and preventing musculoskeletal injuries. We provide medical services to all types of people, not just athletes participating in sports, and we do not train people as personal or fitness trainers do.

ATs meet qualifications set by the Board of Certification Inc. and adhere to the requirements of a state licensing or regulatory board. ATs practice under the direction of a physician and are members of the health care profession recognized by the American Medical Association.

A personal trainer develops, monitors and changes an individual’s specific exercise program in a fitness setting. Personal trainers can be credentialed through a number of agencies and can work as fitness trainers without formal instruction or certification.

Personal trainers may or may not have higher education in the health sciences, may or may not be required to obtain certification or state licensing, and may become certified by any number of organizations that set varying education and practice requirements.

When did the athletic training program begin at HRMMC?

The athletic training program at HRRMC began in 2011.

How many schools were you serving?

In the beginning, athletic training services were provided to Salida High School and Buena Vista High School.

How has the program grown since its inception?

We currently have three full-time certified athletic trainers and a fourth as-needed position to assist with event coverage. The HRRMC athletic training program provides athletic training services to 10 area schools.

Our coverage includes alternating daily or weekly school visits, pre- and post-practice injury evaluation, treatment, rehabilitation and coverage of home sporting events. We also administer baseline neurocognitive testing for concussion assessment and concussion management. We develop emergency action plans and return-to-play protocols, implement injury-prevention techniques and organize pre-participation exams.

What do you charge the schools for your services?

This a free service provided to the schools by HRRMC.

Can you describe your “typical” work day?

I don’t think there is such a thing as a “typical” work day for an athletic trainer. On most days, I begin at the HRRMC Orthopedic Sports Medicine Center assisting in clinic, handling referrals and fitting and processing our bracing products.

I then travel to one of my covered schools. Typically, I start with pre-practice treatments and taping and then progress to injury evaluation and rehabilitation programs. I try to make my rounds to each sport practice even if only briefly. I then provide post-practice evaluations, treatments and rehabilitation, as needed.

On a day with a sporting event, I typically juggle the above activities along with pre-game taping and treatments, game coverage and post-game evaluations and treatments. Sporting events can be busy with injuries, but occasionally I just get to enjoy watching a game.

The other HRRMC athletic trainers’ day may be similar; however, they regularly go to their prospective schools in the morning to maximize care in addition to after-school and game-day coverage.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your profession?

For me, the biggest challenge is the time away from family and friends. We work long hours, nights and weekends. The job can be very stressful with pressures to return athletes to sport as quickly as possible. Often, people don’t understand what we do and that we are medical professionals.

What is the greatest reward?

As athletic trainers, we often see patients from the time of injury, through post-surgery, rehabilitation and finally return to sport. It is very fulling to help athletes return to the sports they love.

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