Brief history of the profession of Athletic Trainers


Physical Therapy Solutions

By Eric Bales, MS, ATC, LAT



The month of March is National Athletic Training Month. Here is a brief overview of the profession of Athletic Training, and how it has evolved over the last century. In the early 1900s, injuries within sports were often managed by other athletes, coaches, or even spectators. With the introduction of football, the need for individuals to help take care of injuries was sparked. A few educational institutions started to hire individuals to take on duties, such as to deal with athletic injuries, carry water jugs, act as team managers, and provide the occasional massage.

In 1914, a graduate from University of Illinois, Samuel Bilik, with a degree in physical education changed the norms of the profession. University of Illinois hired Bilik as a part-time athletic trainer while he was enrolled in medical school. Two years later, he published his first book, Athletic Training, and soon began teaching intensive summer courses for athletic trainers. His courses were supported by using sound, logical, physiological, and scientific facts to practice medicine with athletes.

Fast forward to the 1930s, the founders of the Cramer Chemical Company, Charles and Frank Cramer, furnished supplies to training rooms throughout the country. The Cramer brothers travelled with the US Olympic team in 1932, sharing their knowledge that they had learned, and they set up a series of traveling workshops and published a newsletter, The First Aider. The First Aider gave insight into the latest athletic training methods, provided a forum for exchange of ideas regarding the conditioning and training of athletes, discussion of training room problems, and the care and treatment of minor injuries in athletics.

In 1950, the National Athletic Training Association (NATA) was founded. Then in 1967, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized the NATA as a profession worthy of the support of the medical community. The profession has continued to grow. Now, athletic trainers must complete a degree from an accredited university and pass the Board of Certification (BOC) to become a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC). In most states, an Athletic trainer must get a license to practice medicine in that state.

Currently athletic trainers work in a multitude of settings. These settings include secondary schools, college/universities, professional sports, sports medicine clinics, military, industrial and corporate, hospitals, health clubs, performing arts, and Olympic sports. Additional areas that employ athletic trainers are youth, recreational, government, law enforcement, and amateur sports teams. New areas of employment continue to emerge as athletic trainers educate the public about their diversity of expertise.

Physical Therapy Solutions

By Eric Bales, MS, ATC, LAT

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