Case for AT Regulation

March 3, 2013

Why do athletic trainers need to be licensed? ATs already have national certification, isn’t that good enough? Does it really help at all?

Athletic trainers are certified nationally be the BOC ( There are requirements for taking the certification exam, including completing a CAATE accredited program in Athletic Training. The certification exam is grueling – ask anyone who has completed it. This certification (ATC) is the standard for most states for licensing, certification, or registration. The BOC requires continuing education to maintain the credential and has been leading the way in regards to certification.

The ATC does allow someone to be recognized as qualified and is the route for becoming an athletic trainer in the United States. This does not, however, prevent someone from calling themself an athletic trainer. The credential cannot be used without the BOC, but “athletic trainer” is not protected by the BOC.

In 39 states Athletic trainers are licensed. Four states have certification. Five states have registration. California, Alaska, and the District of Columbia are not regulated.

Regulation of a profession is for the protection of the public. It prohibits someone unqualified (without proper credential) from practicing or calling themself an athletic trainer. Unfortunately, not all regulation is equal. Licensing is the most protective. Certification provides greater protection than registration, but does not provide the public with adequate protection. Registration is essentially being listed with the state as an athletic trainer. There is not a great amount of protection under registration. The states that lack regulation have not taken the steps to protect the public from a parent, a coach, or even a janitor from practicing athletic training.

In states where regulation has been standard for years it might seem strange to think that someone could come in off the street and call themself an athletic trainer. A coach that has been around might try to fill the shoes, but they lack the knowledge and skills that are gained in athletic training education.

There are states attempting to improve regulation, including introducing regulation (California and Alaska). It is important for the public to know that they have someone qualified when someone calls themself an athletic trainer. A recent post on twitter talked about a chiropractor and students calling themselves athletic trainers. While the chiropractor has training, the qualifications are not the same and the skills should not be confused.

Athletic trainers have extensive training in evaluation, diagnosis, management, treatment and rehabilitation, and knowledge of return to play. Concussions and athlete safety are areas of expertise. Athletic trainers understand emergency management, especially of the equiped athlete.

While some might assume that athletic trainers are like personal trainers, it could not be further. Personal trainers are not required to have education, even though some have education, and there is no standard certification. In fact, some personal trainers become certified in a weekend. On the other hand, athletic trainers are health care professionals with a minimum of a bachelors degree and have the ATC as the standard.

Athletic trainers and the public should demand the highest regulation in each state. It is for the safety of those that athletic trainers treat. It is for the safety of all of the student-athletes in high schools who deserve the services of someone qualified. Parents need to know that when their child goes to school that, like knowing that the school nurse is qualified, that the “athletic trainer” is qualified through having a license.


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