What are Athletic Therapists?

Athletic therapists, as defined by the Ontario Athletic Therapists Association, are health care professionals that specialize in the prevention, assessment, and care of musculoskeletal disorders, especially as they relate to athletics and the pursuit of physical activity (OATA, 2009).

If you watch professional sports on television, you’ve seen Athletic Therapists jump over the boards, or on to the field, to respond to a medical emergency or injury. You have likely seen someone on the sidelines of a local football or rugby tournament with a first aid fanny pack slung over their shoulder or around their waist. And if you have been in a busy sports medicine clinic, they are there too! 

 Athletic therapists (ATs) are first to respond to an injury or emergency typically in a sports setting. All levels of active people and teams use ATs for their knowledge of acute injuries. With advanced first responder skills, an AT will control the emergency, and can assess for the injury onsite. This leads to a faster diagnosis and treatment time. All athletes and active people want “rapid return to work and play” (OATA). Once the diagnosis is made, the AT will treat and manage the injury, from the initial reduction of pain and swelling to agility and power exercises as indicated. What separates ATs from other health care professionals is the keen awareness for acute injury management, biomechanics, strength and conditioning, and manual therapy. This along with advanced first aid makes an athletic therapist a great choice for athletes of all levels.

The sporting world is dealing with a new awareness of concussions. Athletic therapists are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injuries (concussions). Managing these injuries can take a coordinated effort amongst health care professionals and an athletic therapist can be your quarterback. Athletic therapists use advanced assessments, like cranial nerve testing and the SCAT test, to determine if a concussion was possibly sustained. Manual therapy and working along side sports medicine physicians is also in the scope of athletic therapy.  

All certified athletic therapists write a nationally standardized written exam and four components of practical testing. Candidates are tested on assessment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries as well as medical emergencies and non-emergencies in the field. Once the national exams are passed, certified therapists must continually update their sports medicine education and first aid certifications. 

Go ahead, give athletic therapy a try!

Synergy's Athletic Therapist is Alex Barton - Find out more about her by clicking here.

For more information about athletic therapy, check out the recently completed White Paper put out by the OATA: http://www.ontarioathletictherapists.org/page-1614370


Author: Jen Mark, BSc., CAT(C), CSCS | Athletic Therapist, Gormley ON | jenkmark.com