A certified athletic trainer (ATC) works under a physician’s supervision to manage a physically active person’s activity-related medical problems. Recognized by the American Medical Society as an allied health professional, ATCs excel in injury evaluation, prevention and rehabilitation.
Most athletes have their first contact with the ATC in high school. Weekend warriors, or those who exercise sporadically, can also benefit from the advice of an ACT, since they often experience injuries that limit daily activity. Their injuries are often related to flexibility and strength.
Flexibility, or lack of it, is categorized by activity level. Those who do not use the full range of motion in daily living but overstretch with activity on the weekends put themselves at risk for an Achilles tendon rupture, hamstring strain, low back injuries and other muscle problems.
The ATC’s recommendation for rehabilitation of muscle injuries, sustained from lack of flexibility, emphasizes full range of motion and renewed strength of the injured muscle. These objectives are often achieved through ice massage and stretching. Stretching is best accomplished by “reach and hold” techniques. The ATC can also manually stretch the muscles.
Strength Training: The Overload Principle
Too often, strength training is overlooked in the recovery process, causing re-injury to the muscles. The ATC can recommend safe strength-training rehabilitation techniques. One of the most common methods involves the overload principle. Developed and used with soldiers in World War II, this principle is designed to exercise muscle groups in three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions:
Lift the first set at one-half maximum.
Lift the second set at three-quarters maximum.
Lift the third set at maximum.
“Maximum” means the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted 10 times. Each time the maximum is lifted 10 times, increase the weight so that you are always lifting to achieve maximum.
Counseling and Education
Counseling and education of physically active people is another part of the ATC’s domain. High school athletes often seek information about weight gain or loss issues.
How Can You Find an ATC?
The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) has 25,000 members currently working in secondary schools, colleges and universities, sports medicine clinics, hospital physical rehabilitation clinics, fitness centers, industrial settings, and in professional athletics. Visit the NATA Web site for more information.