Need & Impact

Athletic training is a unique allied health profession that specializes in team/organization-based health management. Unlike other allied health professions, athletic training is fundamentally rooted in interventions related to the preservation of function, injury prevention, and return to activity following injury. An athletic trainer’s ability to work as part of an interdisciplinary medical team lends him/her to be successful in a wide variety of clinical settings. The national governing body for athletic trainers, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association recently published a document describing the emerging roles of athletic trainers outside of traditional sports settings.5 Included in this document were both Occupational Health and Public Health.5 Athletic trainers imbedded into occupational health settings can result in major returns on investment through reductions of injury and severity, health care costs, workers compensation claims, and missed work days.6 a study conducted by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association surveyed industrial employers that utilize athletic trainers and found that those that employ athletic trainers typically see  greater than 25% reductions in workers compensation claims for musculoskeletal disorders and a decrease of at least 505 in work-related injuries among employees.6,7 Additionally, 50% of companies that offer onsite physical rehabilitation programs showed a 50% decrease in health care costs.7 More than 80% of companies indicated 3:1 return on investment and 30% of companies as high as 7:1 return on investment for employing athletic trainers.8 Schilling et al.9 describe a need to educate employers , legislators, and third-party investors to increase the prevalence of athletic trainers in occupational health settings but we also need to invest in more targeted multidisciplinary occupational health training for these athletic trainers who aspire to work in these settings.9

Due to the unique capabilities of athletic trainers, industries including manufacturing, transportation, and service are hiring athletic trainers or contracting with medical facilities for athletic training services to provide care to their employees. As of 2009, there were a total of 357 (1.5%) certified athletic trainers working in industrial / corporate settings.10 By 2015 these jobs rose to 474, a 32.8% increase in athletic trainers being employed in the occupational health and safety field.11 

Although athletic trainers can provide a valuable asset to occupational health and wellness initiatives with a company, the education requirements mandated from the accrediting body, Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), do not include instruction of regulations or skills unique to injury management and prevention in an occupational setting. We expect that this lack of available training opportunities for Athletic Trainers limits the preparedness of these clinicians. Discussions with local employers, including Premise Health, the healthcare supplier for Toyota Motor Company in Georgetown KY, acknowledges a lack of training recourses available for these athletic trainers. This lack of resources educational resources has led to aspiring athletic trainers being unaware of occupational safety and health employment opportunities. Despite job opportunities existing in the region none of our graduates have obtained jobs in an occupational safety and health setting.

Since the beginning of the AT program at UK,  faculty have been dedicated to providing high-level training and practical skills to their students to obtain competitive positions in sports medicine tracks. The vast majority of these positions filled are in traditional Athletic Training roles, as the program and overseeing accrediting body has intended. However, now with an expansion of job opportunities for athletic trainers in the occupational and industrial fields, more training is needed for newly certified athletic trainers to pursue these new opportunities.