Occupational Athletic Training

Athletic trainers (ATs) are skilled allied health care professionals who collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals to provide and coordinate preventive services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. Athletic trainers work under the direction of a licensed physician as prescribed by state licensure statutes. “Athletic trainers relieve widespread and future workforce shortages in primary care support and outpatient rehab professions and provide an unparalleled continuum of care for the patients. Athletic trainers improve functional outcomes and specialize in patient education to prevent injury and re-injury. Preventive care provided by an athletic trainer has a positive return on investment for employers. ATs are able to reduce injury incidence and shorten rehabilitation time for their patients, which translates to lower absenteeism from work or school and reduced health care costs.”4 Although traditional roles for athletic trainers has been in athletics, the comprehensive knowledge, skills, and collaborative nature of athletic trainers have allowed expansion of their practice into occupational health fields.

The national professional organization for Athletic Trainers, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), was formed in 1950. In partnership with the NATA the certification agency for AT, the Board of Certification (BOC), was formed and those that passed the certification examination were deemed as a “Certified Athletic Trainer.” The entry point for AT education was established as the bachelor’s degree. In 1996, the BOC determined that only those with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited AT program were eligible to sit for the BOC examination. After becoming certified, athletic trainers could choose to obtain more education and clinical experience by pursuing a master’s degree. In 1975, the NATA began recognizing accredited Masters in AT degree programs for students that already obtained their entry-level degree and passed their national BOC  NATA as accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).

Recently, the leaders of the NATA in partnership with the CAATE and the BOC have determined the profession of AT will transition the education model for preparation of entry-level Athletic Trainers from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree. The national mandate is that existing CAATE accredited degree programs can select to make a substantive change in degree by 2022. A consequence of this mandate is that the post-professional master’s degree programs will be phased out by the CAATE. After careful evaluation by the AT faculty and an external consultant, along with the support and encouragement of the administration of the College of Health Sciences, the current athletic training post-professional master’s degree will be converted to a “entry-level” master’s degree, which will comply, ahead of the mandated deadline, with the accrediting body’s regulations. This converted program is expected to begin enrolling students in the fall of 2020. Going forward, students interested in athletic training will have greater access to earn a degree in athletic training at the University of Kentucky.

The overall goal of the program will be to provide both educational and research opportunities and on-site clinical experience for students seeking careers as practicing athletic trainers in an occupational or industrial setting. The objectives of this program are:

  1. Provide a new course specific to occupational athletic training that will expose students to the assessment and practice of sports medicine, with a focus on the biomechanics of human movement and ergonomics in various occupational settings

  2. Sustain an enrollment of 6 OAT trainees (3 each academic year)

  3. Provide an interdisciplinary, advanced education for athletic trainers pursuing careers in occupational health by leveraging interdisciplinary research and other core offerings of the CARERC program

  4. Provide clinical experiences within athletic training services in occupational settings

  5. Provide research opportunities in conjunction with clinical experiences that will allow students to engage in injury prevention research that serves occupational populations