Certified athletic trainers are found in many high schools in the Kansas City area and the kids they serve are better for it. With unique knowledge and skills about sports injuries and illnesses, ATCs are healthcare professionals you’ll want working with your kids.

ATCs, what do you know? T or F?

1. They are also known as personal trainers.

2. They are allied health professionals.

3. They are required for high school sports teams.

Sports medicine has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome where awareness of the importance of exercise and health in athletic performance was just beginning to take hold. In the fifth century pages assisted injured knights on the battlefield. These are the ancestors of the modern sports medicine team.

The first athletic trainer was hired by Harvard to literally train the track team. His role evolved to include the prevention and care of athletic injuries and the modern-day athletic trainer was forged. Gone are the days of actually coaching athletes. Today, ATs are healthcare professionals who practice under the direction of physicians and are licensed/regulated in 46 states. More than 50 percent work outside of competitive athletics. They are found in a wide range of patient care settings including competitive sport, rehabilitation, military and industry.

As the field has evolved, so has athletic training education. Once an apprenticeship type of education, athletic trainers now earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Nearly 70 percent have master’s or doctoral degrees. There are college-based accredited athletic training education programs nationwide. In our area, Park University and Mid-America Nazarene University offer athletic training degree programs.

Certified athletic trainers are those who have completed a bachelor’s program and passed a board certifying examination. They are the healthcare professionals you want see in the training room and on the sidelines. When you assemble a sports medicine team you start with sports medicine physicians and certified athletic trainers.

The term, "trainers" in the sports world is fraught with misunderstanding, confusion and sometimes-even deception. Beware. Anyone can call themselves trainers. Almost every doping controversy in sport from Barry Bonds to Lance Armstrong has, among its characters, those who call themselves "trainers." They are not to be confused with certified athletic trainers who adhere to a strict code of ethics.

Personal trainers are often confused with athletic trainers. There are certificate programs for the range of personal training careers but they are not to be mistaken for the extensive educational background of an athletic trainer.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (nata.org) is the primary professional membership society for ATs. The first meeting of the NATA convened in Kansas City in 1950 with about 200 attendees. Today, the NATA is based in Dallas and boasts over 30,000 members.

Does your kid’s school have ATs for its sports teams? Some schools and school districts employ ATs directly. Other schools partner with hospitals or healthcare organizations to provide ATs for their athletes. The value of ATs to schools is obvious to coaches, athletes and parents. Those of us in sports medicine are fortunate to work daily with ATs, these unsung healthcare professionals.

Answers: 1. F; 2. T; 3. F.

Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.