Parents don’t want to see these professionals in action at high school sporting events, but licensed athletic trainers are always ready if needed.
Jessica Kirby, part of the sports medicine team at Doctors Hospital and the athletic trainer at Grovetown High School since it opened, wants to make sure there are no misconceptions about what athletic trainers do.
“We do more than tape ankles,” she said. “We do more than provide water at practice and we work more than football.”
They’ve been given an active role in assessment of athlete concussions in recent years by the Georgia High School Association, taking the responsibility from referees and coaches to determine if an athlete has a concussion. If an athlete is diagnosed as having a concussion, then athletic trainers are a vital part in determining when the athlete can resume activity.
While athletic trainers diagnose injuries, work with patients in rehabilitation and maintain privacy laws, Kirby noted with good humor the difference between them and physicians.
“Obviously, I don’t have the length of schooling they do,” she said. “I still credit them with being much smarter than I am. Basically I’m kind of the everything.”
James Hildebrand is the athletic trainer at Evans High School. He earned his degree from Ohio Northern University in 2008 and enjoys the challenges and variety of the job.
“I really like the fact that it’s something different every day,” said Hildebrand. “You don’t really have a set routine with everything. You don’t see the same things day in and day out.”
To become an athletic trainer, candidates must receive a bachelor’s degree from a college or university with an accredited athletic training program. Then, depending on individual state regulations, they must pass an exam administered by the Board of Certification.
Kirby, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, is a member of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, the Southeast Athletic Trainers’ Association and the Georgia Athletic Trainers’ Association. To retain her certification, she must earn 75 educational credits every two years.
“I’m always having to stay up on current research,” Kirby said. “The newest push in all phases of medicine is evidence-based medicine, so we have to make sure we’re doing things for a reason, not because we’ve always done them that way. Make sure we have research to support what we do.”
Hildebrand has advice for those thinking about becoming trainers.
“You have to really love bit,” he said. “If you’re on the fence about it and you’re not really sure, I would suggest try it for a while. This is almost more of a lifestyle more than just a career. Especially dealing with the hours we work. You don’t have set hours – you’re there until everything’s done. It might be six o’clock, it might be 11 o’clock.”