“Oh, I bet you’re in great shape!” “I need you to help me lose weight.” “Can you make me a workout plan?” Every Athletic Trainer has heard these statements and similar ones after first introducing themselves and their occupation. So, what is the difference between a Certified Athletic Trainer and a personal trainer? The terms are very similar, so it makes sense that people would be easily confused. Typically, my response is something like “Actually, you know those people that run out on the football field when someone gets hurts – that’s what I do.” It’s much easier to give an example than to try and explain everything that an AT is capable of because there’s so much!
An Athletic Trainer, as defined by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, is a highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professional who collaborates with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. In order to call yourself an AT you must graduate from an accredited master’s program, pass a board exam and in 49 states you are also required to be licensed in order to practice. AT’s must always have their CPR, First Aid and basic life support certification up to date and complete continuing education hours every year. All this to say that Athletic Trainers can do anything from perform chest compressions on a heart attack patient to taking a professional football player through an entire ACL rehabilitation process. In the past they were associated mainly with college and professional athletics, but these days they are employed by clinics, hospitals, performing arts companies, police and fire departments and even health departments in commercial settings.
A personal trainer is someone who works one-on-one with a client to implement a fitness regimen. They have an understanding of human anatomy and physiology and are great motivators. Personal trainers inspire their clients to reach for their goals and hold them accountable for their diet and routines outside of the gym. Personal trainers must pass an exam in order to practice and are obtain a certification. The top 5 certifications are from the American Council on Exercise, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, the International Sports Sciences Association and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Many of these courses require pre-requisite classes and a CPR and First Aid certification before even beginning them. Personal trainers are also required to complete continuing education hours.
Ultimately the best way to stay healthy and fit is to work with both types of professionals. One will make sure you are exercising properly and safely and the other can address any soreness or injuries you may incur while getting into shape.