Athletic Trainers Impact Student Athletes Through Action

Illustration by Aleah Green

March is National Athletic Training Month (NATM) and provides athletic trainers (ATs) an opportunity to promote and advocate for their profession. This year, NATM's goal is to impact health care through AT action.

Graduate assistant AT Naomi Eastland said NAU sports medicine affects health care by providing professional treatment to athletes.

“We ensure that we are providing health care at its highest," Eastland said. "We never offer partial services and we ensure that our patients leave satisfied, knowing we gave them more than 100% effort in each treatment session.”

The ATs on campus's primary job is ensuring the safety of student athletes by making sure proper action is taken for any injuries. Eastland also said athletic trainers work to promote injury prevention and even help with mental health concerns.

Sophomore Seth Long plays on NAU's Football team and described Eastland as a knowledgeable and professional AT. He said sports medicine services are useful and he utilizes them four times a week.

“Naomi always approaches each treatment session with optimism and challenges me to continually improve,” Long said. “We have a great relationship. We are comfortable with each other and we always try to make treatment fun and productive.”

Eastland has helped Long recover from five different injuries. Long said she helped by remaining positive and keeping him motivated to work through each setback.

Long said she chose to become an AT to help others become the best versions of themselves, both physically and mentally.

“As athletic trainers, we act as all health care providers centralized as one," Eastland said. "We refer, help with injuries, assist with mental health concerns, recognize general medical conditions, and much more. We work endlessly.”

Improving her leadership and hands on skills is what Long hopes to continue working toward as an AT, and she said would eventually like to serve in a director or leadership position.

ATs are allied health care professionals, professionals who provide a range of diagnostic, therapeutic and other services, who work directly with physicians. Eastland said ATs provide emergency care and prevent, diagnose and treat injuries and medical conditions for people in all walks of life. They treat a diverse patient population that includes athletes, industrial workers, military service members and many others. ATs are employed in secondary schools, colleges and professional sports and provide services in public safety and industrial settings.

While commonly seen running out onto a field to evaluate an injury, Eastland said the role of an AT runs much deeper. ATs address athlete hydration, environmental safety, mental health concerns, general medical conditions, nutrition and musculoskeletal and orthopedic injuries. She said they are educated in developing emergency action plans and executing the plan when an emergency occurs.

Women’s soccer player Sydney Paez described her AT, Anna Gutierrez, as strong and courageous. Paez said she recieves sports medicine services up to four times a week.

“Anna has made my experience as a student athlete so much more enjoyable,” Paez said. “Anna is always there for everyone, both on and off the field. She has made my rehab for my ACL light-hearted and always fun. Anna is a person I look forward to seeing every day. I appreciate all of her hard work and care that she gives everyone on the soccer team.”

College and professional level ATs interact with their athletes multiple times each day, which Eastland said helps promote the building of strong relationships. This also helps ensure that the athletes are receiving the most appropriate care.

At NAU, each athletic team has a primary AT to coordinate care. This individual communicates with the coaching staff, strength and conditioning department, sport psychologist, sports dietician and others involved in the recovery process to ensure student athlete success.

Graduate assistant AT Cayman Greene worked with NAU football for the past season and plans to do so in the next school year.

“I was inspired to become an athletic trainer by my high school AT,” Greene said. “He was always there for his athletes and really cared for them.”

Greene said that he also believes that ATs can be underrepresented when considering how much they contribute to athletics.

"I wish people knew more about the impact we have on athletics," Greene said. "Many teams would not be able to compete without ATs.”

Undergraduate students are able to become involved in the sports medicine department by applying for the First Aid Tech program. The program allows students to gain experience in the daily operations of athletic training and provides opportunities for mentorship and professional growth by connecting with ATs and current athletic training students.

NAU also offers a Master of Science in Athletic Training that prepares students to take the Board of Certification exam to become a certified AT. Additional athletic training resources can be found at the National Athletic Trainers Association.

With March being NATM, it provides the perfect opportunity to thank your own AT or learn more about the profession.