The History of Athletic Training

First aid kit

Athletic training has seen a significant evolution during the course of the past 100 years. Much of the change has stemmed from technological advances, the realization for the need of athletic trainers, a reevaluation of effective curriculum for athletic training and a continual change in the leadership of national and worldwide athletic training organizations.


Athletic trainers help prevent and treat injuries that are typically caused by athletic involvement. Athletic trainers spend time with athletes to teach them preventive measures to avoid injuries as well as the proper use of athletic equipment. Athletic trainers also tape or brace ankles, knees and other appendages to prevent athletes from getting hurt or developing further injury. Another responsibility of the athletic trainer is to teach therapy exercises to athletes that improve strength, balance and coordination. Under the direction of a physician, athletic trainers are first responders to injuries at athletic events and administer first aid to athletes.


The American Medical Association endorsed athletic training as an allied health profession in 1990, though the presence of the athletic trainer was prevalent for many decades previous. Attendants to the Olympic Games in the early 20th century treated athletes for injuries and prevention. Once football became an official national sport in the United States, the realization was made that responders needed to be present to tend to athletes in the case of injury. In the 1950s, the National Athletic Trainers' Association was established, composed of trainers throughout the world, including Canada, Japan and the United States. The National Board of Certification was put in place in 1989, a certification program for placement-level athletic trainers.

Early Curriculum

A study published in the "Journal of Athletic Training" explains that the early curriculum of athletic training degrees focused on identifying a “specific body of knowledge for athletic trainers,” but the courses were relatively identical to other health and physical education courses. By the 1970s, the curriculum for athletic trainers began to advance, eliminating the requirement for secondary teaching certification. In 1981, Sayers Miller, chair of the Professional Education Committee, proposed a major-specific option for athletic training to be offered in colleges. By 1982, the NATA board of directors began implementing standards and guidelines that schools could use to offer major programs in athletic training. Today, athletic training is offered in master's and doctorate degree levels.

Athletic Training Certification

The qualifications for a professional athletic trainer include graduation with a bachelor's degree in an accredited athletic training program; CPR and first aid certification; an endorsed application by a NATA-certified trainer; and successful completion of the NBOC exam.


According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, athletic trainers had 16,300 jobs in 2008. Most of these jobs are related to sports events, but 39 percent worked in school and university settings and another 38 percent worked in health-care positions, including jobs in hospitals and physician's clinics. Approximately 13 percent of trainers worked in recreational facilities, and 5 percent worked in spectator sports.