Evidence Based Practice and the Future of Athletic Training


The Athletic Training profession is evolving each and every day, as our local, regional , and national leaders are fighting for our rights as healthcare professionals on Capitol Hill. In an effort to bring Athletic Trainers in line with other professions such as Physical Therapists, evidence-based practice (EBP) has become a movement that is becoming the standard form of education and practice for those involved in this profession. Evidence-based practice promotes the combined use of best evidence, patient values and preferences, clinician expertise, and circumstances related to the clinical environment setting. This process enhances reasoning and decision making in clinical practice, and subsequently can improve patient care outcomes and result in more cost-effective patient care.

It is very important for the young professionals to have an appreciation for how our profession began and evolved. Initially there was no set of professional standards and appropriate professional recognition until the founding of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association in 1950.2 For decades the Athletic Training profession was practiced through here-say and anecdotal stories of what worked and what did not work. As generations passed, these treatments and remedies were passed down from teacher to student and so on. While the trial and error method did work for many and has helped countless patients, in many cases there was no scientific evidence to back up the methods that were being used. There in lies the need for EBP.

Inclusion of the knowledge and skills related to evidence-based practice in Athletic Training Education Programs (ATEP’s) is needed to promote current clinical practice and quality patient care. As a core component of educational curricula, EBP promotes critical thinking among students through integration of patient values, best available evidence, and clinician expertise. Specific to athletic training (AT), these components of EBP should be taught in educational curricula to provide a more scientific base for clinical practice.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) has began increasing resource availability for athletic trainers to begin incorporating EBP into clinical practice.1 These resources focus strongly on improving accessibility to current, high quality, evidence-based research through databases, forums, and continuing education opportunities. Implementation of the EBP process and associated concepts in the clinical setting and professional education is necessary as we continue to seek third-party reimbursement (insurance companies), practice adequate and effective athletic training techniques, increase the amount of evidence in our literature, promote critical thinking between ourselves, and enhance our reputation within the field of health care and the general public. Students enrolled in Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)-accredited programs should have significant exposure to EBP, as they will be future leaders of the AT profession.

As mentioned above, third-party reimbursement is a luxury that the Athletic Training profession does not fully have a grasp of yet. Third-party reimbursement is the ability of the health care provider to bill for their services and have a third party, insurance companies, cover the expenses. By implementing EBP into our curricula and clinical experiences the hope is that Athletic Training will be viewed in the same light as other health care professions. While the use of EBP will benefit the clinicians, the true driving factor behind it is to deliver the best possible care to our patients whether they be youth athletes, high school athletes, collegiate athletes, professional athletes, service men or women, factory workers, or any other patient that falls under the ever expanding umbrella of Athletic Training care.

For those interested in learning more about EBP in the Athletic Training profession visit the first link below. This link leads to modules created by the NATA to educate readers on how to utilize EBP in their own clinical experience. If you would like to support your Athletic Trainer please follow the third link below to the government affairs/advocacy page of the NATA website to learn more about the present battles being fought by the profession on Capitol Hill.





Informative Video about EBP from Dr. Mark Ebell, College of Public Health, University of Georgia:



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