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Athletic trainers call for separation from ‘trainers’
Chances are you know at least one person at Quinnipiac who is an athletic training student. You know they work with athletes and take a lot of science classes, but what exactly does it mean to be an athletic trainer?
QU Athletic Training professor Susan Norkus said that almost every time she tells someone what she does or what she teaches, she has to explain herself.
“It has become less frequent over the years but you do get accustomed to saying, ‘I’m an athletic trainer,’ quickly followed up by an explanation of what that means,” Norkus said.
With March being National Athletic Training Month, Quinnipiac students and professors are trying to get the word out about the differences between personal trainers and athletic trainers to set the record straight.
“As young professionals, I think it is our job to help spread the word any way that we can to help people understand what we do and why we are so important,” athletic training student Amy Zammataro said.
In today’s media, there is no differentiation between an athletic trainer and a personal trainer, as both are simply referred to as “trainers” during televised sporting events. Those in the athletic training profession are looking to educate students and the media because the two careers have different requirements and duties.
According to the National Association of Athletic Trainers, in terms of training and qualifications, athletic trainers must have a bachelor’s degree or above in athletic training. Students must pass an extensive exam before becoming certified and participate in continuing education throughout their life to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date. Athletic trainers must adhere to the rules set forth by one national certifying agency.
Conversely, personal trainers are not required to have higher education in the health sciences and may or may not be required to obtain certification and participate in continuing education. Personal trainers do not abide by the guidelines of one national organization but may be certified by a number of different groups which have different education and practice requirements.
“The education of personal trainers is sporadic, not regulated, and some may not have any actual knowledge regarding your health and/or wellness,” Norkus said. “Some personal trainers are very good with certifications from well-known and respected organizations, they have college degrees, and solid educational backgrounds. However, some may become ‘certified’ over the Internet. There is no consistency.”
The daily duties and responsibilities of athletic and personal trainers are also very different. Athletic trainers provide physical medicine and rehabilitation services as well as prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate both acute and chronic injuries. Athletic trainers work with physicians and other health professionals and can be found in schools, colleges, professional sports clinics, the military, performing arts, and hospitals.
Unlike athletic trainers, a personal trainer’s responsibility is to assess fitness needs and design fitness and exercise programs for clients to help them achieve their goals. They are also expected to educate about the importance of physical activity and can be found working in health clubs, gyms, wellness centers and other places.
Zammataro has personal experience with the confusion between the different “trainers.”
“Many people simply refer to us as ‘trainers,’” Zammataro said. “This can be misleading because when people hear the word trainer I think they link both of these two very separate professions together. At the high school I was just doing my clinical assignment at, the kids and even the coaches would say, ‘Go see the trainer.’ And the athletic trainer would respond to that by saying, ‘If you can please call me an athletic trainer then, yes, I can help you.’”
To get the message out, the Eastern Athletic Training Association (EATA) student delegation has started a grassroots media education program which asks athletic training students to approach members of the media at sporting events and hand out information about the differences between the two types of trainers. After students hand out the information, they are asked to get the signature from whoever they give the flier too. The school that receives the most signatures will receive $200 from the EATA for their student athletic training club.
At Quinnipiac, athletic training students are doing their part to raise awareness about their profession and to stay involved in the community.
“We have helped local high schools with pre-season baseline concussion screenings so that if an athlete does sustain a concussion during their season this baseline test can be referred to and help determine when an athlete can safely return to play,” Zammataro said.
This fall, the Athletic Training club put on its first “Walk for Thought” event, which raised money for the Brain Injury Association of Connecticut. So next the time you hear someone refer to a Certified Athletic Trainer as simply “trainer,” explain to them the difference.
“In order for our profession to grow and gain the respect that it deserves, we need to separate ourselves from this misconception/confusion over the two terms,” Zammataro said.