Athletic Trainers on the Sidelines & in the Clinic/ Office…

Written by admin on March 6, 2013 – 4:00 pm -

Traditionally physician’s offices have been staffed by receptionists, medical assistants, nurses, physician assistants, x-ray technicians, and maybe even an intern or student. However, in recent years, athletic trainers (AT) have become important additions to many clinics, especially in orthopedic practices.

Athletic trainers have been recognized as allied healthcare professionals, by the American Medical Association, since 1990 (AMA, p. 1). An entry-level position within the profession requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited academic program, a passing score on a three part (national) exam administered by the Board of Certification TM, state licensure or certification (required by 48 states within the U.S), and adherence to professional standards and a code of ethics. Once certified, an AT must also complete continuing education programs, and maintain CPR/ AED credentialing (Rogers).

The traditional role of an AT on the sidelines and within an athletic program, has expanded to the medical clinic as a physician extender. For some, formal post-graduate work may be completed in the form of a residency or fellowship, but even without such additional training, most ATs are well-prepared to function as physician extenders in orthopaedics. This ability is borne from the undergraduate curriculum which is an intense focus on prevention, diagnosis, and intervention techniques for emergency, acute, and chronic musculoskeletal maladies.

As a physician extender, athletic trainers are often responsible for recording patient histories, performing physical assessments, and presenting the findings to the physician. Additional duties include preparing injections, teaching home exercise/ rehabilitation programs, applying/ removing casts, fitting crutches/ braces, removing sutures/ staples, completing therapy/ lab/ medication orders, and answering patient questions about insurance claims, disability forms, injuries, treatment options, and procedures. With additional training, an AT may even administer patient injections and assist the surgeon in the operating room.

In 2009, Orthopedics Today reported that clinics utilizing athletic trainers, as physician extenders, “saw an 18% average increase in productivity,” without any apparent deterioration in quality of care. Recent literature suggests there is “no difference in the patient’s perception of care comparing an orthopedic resident and athletic trainer” (Pecha), and in fact, “trends are a little bit higher for the athletic trainer in patient satisfaction scores” (Pecha). Modern medicine, by its very nature is characterized by unprecedented uncertainty and volatility. There is little doubt that Athletic trainers are well-positioned to provide much needed support to their supervising physicians and to their patients.

Caitlin Davis, LAT, ATC is a post graduate fellow at GOSM. For more information, visit us at

Mary Sult (LAT, ATC) is a certified and licensed (NC) athletic trainer at Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina. Mary regularly provides outreach services to Bunn High School (Bunn, NC). OSNC’s Sports Medicine staff also works with other schools and sports organizations in Franklin, Granville, Wake, and Vance counties. For more information please visit


American Medical Association. Therapy and Rehabilitation. Retrieved from

Pecha, Forrest (2013, January). The Growing Role of Athletic Trainers in Orthopaedics. Retrieved from…

Rogers, C. (2008, October). Physician extenders: Pa’s, np’s, and…athletic trainers?. Retrieved from

Today, O. (2009, July). Athletic trainers can move from the playing field into the office as physician extenders. Retrieved from{8CC880B5-E523-4092-A54B-009EBB665D38}/Athletic-trainers-can-move-from-the-playing-field-into-the-office-asphysician-extenders

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