March 17, 2023
March is National Athletic Training Month. Athletic trainers
specialize in preventing, assessing and treating acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries and skin illnesses. Sometimes people get confused thinking an athletic trainer is a fitness trainer or strength and conditioning coach, but this is inaccurate. A strength coach is an exercise professional
role, with distinct expertise and responsibilities. Strength and conditioning coaches
train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance while preventing injury. Fitness trainers
include personal trainers and group exercise instructors who lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in safe exercise activities. Whereas, exercise physiologists
develop exercise programs and promote health behaviors that help those with specific pathologies like heart disease.
How are exercise professionals distinct from athletic trainers?
- Who they work with - Exercise professionals work with individuals or groups of individuals on fitness instruction or coaching. Depending on their area of expertise, they may also work with athletes by developing exercise programs that focus on sport-specific skills and physical attributes. Athletic trainers are trained to provide immediate care for injuries that occur during athletic activities. In addition to preventing and treating injuries, they also develop conditioning programs and provide rehabilitation services.
- How they are credentialed - Registered exercise professionals have passed a NCCA-accredited competency-based exercise certification exam, whereas athletic trainers have completed a CAATE-accredited program and passed a BOC certification exam.
- Where they work - Athletic trainers work in educational settings, hospital or clinical settings, or in the professional sports realm. Exercise professionals work in health & fitness centers, recreation centers, studios, or corporate settings, in addition to hospital or educational settings. Strength and conditioning coaches also work in the professional sports realm.
Exercise professionals and athletic trainers play different roles working with different populations in different settings. When working with athletes, they can collaborate to prevent injury and condition athletes to optimize athlete health and performance. Athletic trainers commonly support strength coaches in return to play protocols transitioning injured athletes back to competition.