Jan 29, 2015
Cause for Celebration

Kelli Brewer Sabiston, MA, ATC, LAT, Owner/Consultant at Atlantic Athletic Training Services in Shallotte, N.C., shares what National Athletic Training Month means to her and the importance the profession plays in today’s athletic culture.

It’s March, and that means the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is celebrating National Athletic Training Month (NATM)! This is the one time a year when certified athletic trainers come out from “behind the scenes” to not only educate the public about their profession, but to also celebrate their history and their contribution to the healthcare delivery system. Athletic trainers typically keep a low profile when doing their jobs, but be assured that the patients of athletic trainers, the coaches with whom they work, the physicians who use their services, and many others who come in contact with these hard-working, unselfish individuals know about and are grateful to the athletic trainer. And National Athletic Training Month is the time to give a cheer for these allied health professionals.

Although the profession of athletic training has evolved and now encompasses many work settings including athletics, rehabilitation clinics, industrial settings and even the NASA space program, this year’s NATM theme is “Who’s Taking Care of Your Kids?” The focus is to reach and educate the public and other stakeholders about the need for certified athletic trainers in the secondary school setting.

The focus on youth sports has grown exponentially over the past several years. Kids are competing earlier with more intensity than ever. The emphasis on becoming bigger, faster, and stronger–especially in high school athletics–puts these kids at risk for injury. Athletic trainers are the most qualified healthcare professionals to help prevent injuries, educate coaches and parents about proper training techniques, and perform the necessary medical care when injuries do happen.

Grassroots efforts can be very effective in this arena. School administrators, athletic directors, coaches, parents, and booster clubs can be strong allies in the quest to provide adequate medical coverage for the children they have a duty to protect. In 1993, I personally worked with the athletic director (an incredible coach and person named Dexter Wood), principal, and school board in Marietta, Ga., to create the first full-time athletic training position at Marietta High School, which was also the first full-time high school position in the state. We set a precedent to have a full-time athletic trainer (with no teaching duties) to care for both the high school and middle school student-athletes. Now many schools have followed the lead. School systems will always have to be creative to find ways to fund these positions, but it can be done. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on the healthcare and lives of the student-athletes.

In addition to the focus on secondary schools, NATM gives athletic trainers the perfect opportunity to answer questions about supplements and steroids. With all the publicity coming from Major League Baseball’s Mitchell Report and the problem with steroids in professional athletics, it’s important for athletic trainers to continue getting out the message that we are different from personal trainers–not in order to “lay claim” to any specific job, but to make sure the public knows what they’re getting.

In my personal experience, I’ve found a common ground with almost every athletic trainer I’ve ever met–although our personalities and backgrounds differ, we all genuinely, deeply care for our clients and patients. The athletic trainers I’ve met over the years work tirelessly, selflessly, and have an uncanny ability to relate to their patients. Perhaps it’s because in many settings (like the secondary school setting) athletic trainers are the first medical professional on the scene, and then work with that patient from injury, to recovery, to rehabilitation, to return to activity.

I can think of few times that I’ve been more proud and excited than witnessing a patient return to activity after a serious injury. This emotion comes from deep down and is extremely humbling. Credit is not often given to the athletic trainer for a patient’s success, but that isn’t what motivates us to do our jobs. That deep down feeling we get knowing that we’ve helped someone accomplish their goals seems to be enough for most.

That brings me back to why National Athletic Training Month is so important. Yes, we need to continue educating the public about our educational background, our expertise, our value in the healthcare system, and the need for more athletic trainers to take care of our kids, but we also need to celebrate the unique and exciting place the athletic training profession holds in the healthcare industry. So let’s be proud and get loud! Happy National Athletic Training Month!

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