Just The Athletic Trainer Facts: ATs VS. Physical Therapists

If you’ve every played sports or participated in physical activity, chances are you’ve heard about athletic trainers. However, what you probably don’t know is that they are vastly different than personal trainers and physical therapists. Many people often confuse athletic trainers (ATs) with the personal fitness gurus you see at the gym or think they’re the same as physical therapists (PTs). However, ATs bring their own set of unique skills and expertise to the sports medicine team. Here are some athletic trainer facts that will help differentiate them from physical therapists.

Fact #1: ATs Work Together With Physical Therapists

Whether it’s a sports organization or an outside clinic that employs an athletic trainer, ATs work very well with physical therapists. Oftentimes, they will tag team when it comes to rehabilitating an athlete or physically active patient. Both physical therapists and athletic trainers focus on the biomechanics of the body, i.e. body movement. They make sure that your form is correct when doing any exercises and that there is no misalignment. Any misalignment could lead to injury. However, where physical therapists leave off, athletic trainers pick up and vice versa. Whereas physical therapists can treat any patient with an injury, athletic trainers focus on athletes and the physically active population.

Fact #2: They Complete The Sports Circle of Life

This is the sports circle of life: training, injury prevention, performance, injury rehabilitation, then back to training. Athletic trainers have the primary focus of injury prevention, while physical therapists come in for the rehabilitation when an athlete is injured. However, this doesn’t mean that physical therapists won’t also focus on strengthening. In fact, strengthening is part of a well-rounded rehabilitation program. This is also where athletic trainers can offer up their expertise if the patient is physically active or involved in sports. They can make sure, with the added input of the physical therapist, that the exercises are conducive to strengthening the muscles most used in the activity. This will help prevent future injuries.

Fact #3: They Have Different But Complimentary Education

Both athletic trainers and physical therapists must have a bachelor’s degree and a certification, but the programs are different. Athletic trainers must have a degree and certification in athletic training. Physical therapists, on the other hand, must hold a bachelor’s degree and must also have an advanced degree from a physical therapy program. Athletic trainers take courses focused on injury prevention, assessment, and analysis, including physiology and biomechanics. However, physical therapists must take courses in kinesiology, pharmacology, neuroscience, diagnostics, health, human growth and development, and more.

OSR Offers Athletic Trainer And Physical Therapy Services

Unlike many physical therapy clinics, OSR offers the services of both athletic trainers and physical therapists. Our ATs and PTs work together to provide a well-rounded experience for our patients – from injury prevention to injury rehabilitation. Our team works to get athletes back to their sport as quickly as possible while strengthening and avoiding future injuries.