Athletics, College of Health Sciences

Athletic trainers essential to healthcare

By Jenna Johnson | September 9, 2022
Steele Morris ’13 attends to CSU football student. Photo provided

When most hear the term athletic training, it is common to envision a man or woman running to the aid of an injured athlete on the field or court. Charleston Southern University student Amy Hoyt, currently in the Master of Athletic Training program, said it’s much more than that.

“Along with injury prevention, evaluation and rehabilitation, athletic trainers are also trained in emergency care and are commonly the first responders in sport-related emergency situations,” she said.

According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), athletic trainers are highly qualified, multiskilled health care professionals who provide primary care, injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. They provide medical services to all, not just athletes.

“Athletic trainers are essential to healthcare. In most cases, athletic trainers are present from the time of an injury to the return to play or activity, which is unlike any other healthcare profession,” said Dr. Brian Smith, director of CSU’s athletic training program. “Athletic trainers are highly educated healthcare clinicians. They are employed and treat patients in the military, performing arts, physician practices, industrial, and law enforcement settings—to name a few.”

Athletic trainers must graduate from an accredited institution with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Seventy percent of trainers have a graduate degree, according to NATA.

Current graduate student Amy Hoyt performs instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) on a fellow classmate. Photo provided

Students interested in pursuing the field begin with a kinesiology degree at CSU, and have the option to enter the 3+2 program. These students can complete their bachelor’s in kinesiology as well as a master’s in athletic training in only five years. 

Dr. Michael Shipe, associate professor of kinesiology, said that kinesiology students study the acute and chronic physiological responses and adaptations resulting from regular physical activity. The program prepares them for both graduate and career work.

“Students learn the basis of proper biomechanics to enhance athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury,” he said. “They can apply this knowledge to improve or maintain health, fitness or performance.”

Alumni like Shanice Bennett ’19 said they pursue athletic training to be a multifaceted healthcare professional. 

“I wanted to be the consistent support system from beginning to end. As an athletic trainer, I am attending from the moment an athlete is injured, through surgery, rehabilitation, and the day they successfully return to their sport; all while balancing social and emotional challenges,” she stated.

Currently Bennett works as an athletic trainer with a sports medicine physician at Lowcountry Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. She also provides PRN coverage for local soccer club tournaments and Fort Dorchester High School athletics.

Athletic trainers rose to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic. CSU’s own Steele Morris ’13, associate athletic director for medical services, and the AT staff for CSU Sports added additional tasks to ensuring constant evaluation and monitoring of student-athletes’ health and well-being. This included additional patient evaluations, COVID testing, education, and contact assessments, all while adjusting policies to meet CDC, SCDHEC, NCAA and Big South COVID policies.

To date, CSU athletic trainers have performed over 5,100 tests on student-athletes. Morris said that the positivity rate from surveillance testing has been less than 1%.

In addition to the success of surveillance testing, Morris added that there has been a positive result in the processes and communication.

“COVID-19 has led to an increase in the amount of medical questions our patients and coaches ask in an attempt to decrease the chances of contracting the virus. As healthcare professionals, we love this!” said Morris. “This will continue to be an opportunity for our patients to become more comfortable and confident to approach medical staff to discuss their needs/concerns.”

The month of March recognizes the important work of athletic trainers. This year’s slogan “Essential to Health Care” encompasses the tireless work of ATs nationwide who provided holistic care for athletes at every level during the pandemic.

“Athletic trainers share a common trait of wanting to help people. They have to be well-organized, be able to collaborate as a member of the healthcare team, be able to problem solve, and work well under pressure,” Smith said, adding that ATs are truly essential.

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