Mar 9, 2017
NATM 2017: Emerging Settings

As part of our celebration of National Athletic Training Month 2017, Training & Conditioning is highlighting five significant contributions that have tremendously impacted the profession. This week, we are focusing on expanding athletic training care beyond the sports setting.


There is no question that athletic trainers are highly valued when it comes to high school and college sports. But what about patients in nontraditional settings who could benefit from an athletic trainer’s care? Fortunately, there’s no need to worry about this group, as athletic trainers can now be found in the military, occupational health, performing arts, public safety, and physicians’ offices. Here, we have delved into each of these settings, utilizing information gathered from the NATA website, to share some of the knowledge and skills needed to excel with these populations.


The need for athletic trainers in this field became so common that the Armed Forces Athletic Trainers Society (AFATS) was formed in 2001. According to the AFATS, athletic trainers are currently working in many branches of the military, including the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard.

As segments of the armed forces vary tremendously in their duties, so too do the responsibilities of their athletic trainers. However, some tasks are similar throughout, including planning and implementing injury prevention programs, organizing a site for evaluating and treating acute training injuries, and keeping both the current and new service members up to date on areas of injury prevention and proper hygiene.

According to Jess Vera Cruz, MSED, VATL, ATC, a member of the Sports Medicine and Injury Prevention Program at the U.S. Marine Base in Quantico, Va., her job is more geared towards reducing injury through teaching and implementing prevention strategies. As part of this, she helps her Commanding Officer make decisions regarding training methods.

“I am considered a subject matter expert,” Cruz said in an October 2013 article for NATA News. “If any training is causing an increase in injuries, it is my job to provide the [Commanding Officer] different courses of actions to mitigate the problem.”

Occupational Health

Athletic trainers in occupational health are in charge of helping employees in industrial settings work at their full capacity, which in turn improves productivity for the company. Responsibilities for the athletic trainer include knowing the company’s job requirements and the safety issues that accompany them, making sure employees have proper protective equipment, helping employees through rehabilitation and return-to-duty, and communicating with the right administrators in the case of employee incident.

Similar to military athletic trainers, those who work in occupational health have a variety of settings to choose from. Tracy Jo Hubbard, ATC, CEAS, attended to workers in a General Motors plant and then served as Program Manager for the Injury Care Program at the Michigan Department for Corrections for several years. As part of this experience, Hubbard designed fitness programs for employees, provided treatment for acute and emergency injuries, and helped employees decide on medical care options when necessary.

“The main difference in industrial athletic training is the setting we work in and the people we work with,” Hubbard wrote in an April 2011 Training & Conditioning article about her time with the Michigan Department for Corrections. “Our clients aren’t athletes per se, but their jobs are often physically demanding, and I’ve found this setting is a tremendous opportunity for athletic trainers to use our sports medicine knowledge.

“But we don’t necessarily work with injured workers all the time,” she continued. “My job also entails things like making workstation setup suggestions for a safer and more ergonomically friendly area for the worker.”

Performing Arts

Athletic trainers who work in the performing arts provide care to dancers, musicians, and vocalists, among others. They have to understand the type of performing art that they are working in and how it impacts the artist. Common responsibilities include teaching appropriate core and postural control exercises; understanding the risks and demands of rehearsing, performing, and touring; and evaluating/conducting training programs that are specific to each artist’s skill.

Katie Lemmon, MS, ATC, Co-Facility Manager of the Gold Coast Facility for Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago, implements her knowledge of athletic training through care and communication in her role with the Joffrey Ballet.

“If a dancer is injured during a performance, I get called backstage,” Lemmon said in an April 2014 issue of NATA News. “I assess the injury in the ‘wings’ and make a quick decision, hopefully helping them return to the stage. If it is not safe for the dancer to return, I work with the artistic staff to determine if another dancer will take over. I communicate with the stage manager and the artistic staff regarding the dancer’s medical status during backstage care.”

Public Safety

Athletic trainers who work in the area of public safety serve officials such as police officers and firefighters. Working in this setting requires knowledge of each stations’ command structure, as well as an understanding of common injuries that occur with public safety personnel. Other responsibilities include educating employees about injury care and wellness issues, understanding the job’s specific physical requirements, and knowing the basics of the worker’s compensation system.

While Nancy Burke, MS, VATL, ATC, Athletic Trainer at Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department, has vast knowledge in each of these duties, she told Training & Conditioning that most of her day is spent in the athletic training room dealing with scheduled appointments or walk-ins.

“My weekly schedule is eight hours a day, five days a week,” she wrote in a May/June 2015 article. “A typical day for me starts with checking injury reports and receiving patients for assessments and treatment. Then, I might meet with academy staff or the Department Injury Review Committee, observe training, and assist with safety matrices for recruit and incumbent training.”

Physician Practice

In physician practice, athletic trainers are needed in helping patients through the processes of evaluation and treatment. Some valuable athletic training skills in this profession are triage, collecting patient history, conducting evaluations, and giving explicit instruction on exercise and rehabilitation. In order to be successful in this position, an athletic trainer will need to understand basic operating room policies and procedures, know the appropriate protocol for handling wound care, and help patients understand different diagnoses and treatment plans.

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