Athletic trainers are allied health professionals who work collaboratively with healthcare professionals, athletes, and other sports medicine team members to provide care and treatment for sports injuries. Athletic trainers diagnose injuries, design rehabilitation programs, and teach injury prevention strategies, all while maintaining a high level of ethical and professional competence. They also work with people in a variety of settings, including primary commercial or industrial healthcare clinics, schools, student health centers, colleges and universities, military training facilities, public hospitals, private medical facilities, and rehabilitation centers.
Requirements to Become an Athletic Trainer
Students interested in becoming certified athletic trainers must meet a variety of requirements. First, students must graduate with a bachelor's or a master's degree from an accredited professional athletic training education program. Although there are a variety of programs across the United States, students can only seek official certification if the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Students must then sit for and pass the Board of Certification (BOC) Exam for Athletic Trainers, administered by the National Athletic Trainers' Association. Licensure is an essential component of becoming a professional athletic trainer. Depending on the state a student practices in, there may also be additional requirements.
The BOC is the only accredited certification program for athletic trainers and assesses the following major practice areas:
- Injury and illness prevention and wellness promotion;
- Examination, assessment, and diagnosis;
- Immediate and emergency care;
- Therapeutic intervention; and
- Healthcare administration and professional responsibility
Once certified, professional athletic trainers must complete continuing education programs to ensure that they are up-to-date and knowledgeable about advancements in the industry to better serve their patients. Finally, certified athletic trainers must work with a physician and ensure that they meet any additional professional requirements of the state where they reside.
Barriers to Obtaining an Athletic Trainer Certification: Undergraduate and Graduate Misconduct
Before sitting for the BOC exam and seeking certification, students must first complete a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field. Misconduct charges can prevent students at either level from graduating. Types of misconduct that can delay academic progress include:
- Academic Misconduct: Examples of academic misconduct include cheating, plagiarism, fabricating data, and lying on tests or other assignments. Some examples of plagiarism include purchasing papers from online sources, copying word-for-word from another student's paper, or using information from a book, journal, or Internet source without proper citation.
- Falsifying Information on Academic Applications/Paperwork: Examples include falsifying information, data, grades, and personal or academic history on academic applications, paperwork, and financial aid forms is a serious violation. Students who engage in this type of dishonesty can be denied admission to the university, prevented from registering for further coursework, or face disciplinary action.
- Behavioral Misconduct: Misconduct allegations are typically brought against students for behavior that violates the institution's code of conduct and other applicable policies. Examples may include unsportsmanlike conduct or cheating, substance abuse, vandalism, hazing, hate crimes, etc.
- Sexual Misconduct / Title IX Violations: All federally funded schools have to comply with Title IX. This federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational activities or programs. Students at federally funded schools who do not comply with Title IX requirements may face serious misconduct consequences. Examples of Title IX violations include sexual harassment, dating/intimate partner violence, and domestic violence.
Students facing disciplinary actions that threaten their ability to receive their undergraduate or graduate degree may feel the door to their education has closed, let alone their dream of becoming an athletic trainer. If you're a student facing disciplinary actions, attorney Joseph. D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm can help carve a path forward.
Barriers to Sitting for the BOC
Aside from receiving the requisite education and successfully passing the BOC exam, the National Athletic Trainers' Association's Board of Certification further requires that applicants demonstrate that they can perform their general athletic training duties "without threat of harm to the public." To ensure that an applicant meets these standards, NATA requires that applicants with a pending legal or educational disciplinary action submit a written explanation of the incident on their application to sit for the BOC exam. The written statement should address the following:
- A written explanation of the events that led to the charges and whether the school took disciplinary action;
- A copy of court documents;
- Copy of arrest report and sentencing recommendations;
- Proof of compliance with court/educational institution's orders; and
- Proof of payment of all related fines.
In instances of behavioral misconduct where the case involved substance abuse issues, applicants may also need to upload recent substance abuse evaluations, proof of counseling, etc. In instances where a court did not explicitly require a substance abuse evaluation, NATA requires that the applicant obtain an evaluation "performed by a state-licensed mental health professional who is capable of providing substance abuse treatment."
Students who have been expelled from their school must also submit a written explanation describing the events that led to expulsion as well as "proof of reinstatement to the academic institution or program." In instances where a student has not yet been readmitted or accepted into another educational institution, an attorney can help navigate appropriate next steps, whether seeking readmission or applying to a new school.
The Professional Practice and Disciplinary Committee then reviews the applications and issues a decision. Applicants they deny can appeal the Committee's decision. If you are concerned that your application to sit for the BOC exam will be denied, or you are currently considering appealing a denied application, attorney Joseph. D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have successfully navigated hundreds of administrative appeals. They can work with you to determine the best path forward for your unique circumstances.
Challenging an Exam Violation
While sitting for the BOC exam, applicants must adhere to several different protocols and policies. Some of these include:
- No visitors during the exam;
- No electronic devices during the exam;
- No book bags, luggage, personal items, etc., in the testing center;
- No disruptive behavior during the exam; and
- Ethical conduct overall.
BOC rules also prohibit applicants from soliciting questions from candidates who have taken the exam before. Similarly, applicants who share information regarding the exam after completing it violate NATA's confidentiality agreement as well as federal copyright law.
If NATA determines that an applicant has violated these policies, it may bar the applicant from re-taking the BOC exam for a period of time determined by the BOC Professional Practice and Discipline Committee. Depending on the committee's findings, a student may want to appeal the denial or the length of time they are barred. Students may appeal the decision in writing but must adhere to strict timelines to submit their appeals. Because the committee withholds the applicant's exam results while it conducts its investigation and resolves the issue, an exam violation can significantly delay the certification process.
In some instances, the BOC can prosecute violations. If it does, students may face serious consequences. Professionals who have already obtained their athletic trainer license can lose it. Students who have not yet obtained their license can be prevented from sitting for the exam again.
If you are facing disciplinary measures related to taking the BOC exam or are currently considering appealing a decision, attorney Joseph. D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have successfully navigated hundreds of administrative appeals and can help.
Appealing Exam Results
Students who pass the BOC exam should be proud of their achievement. However, students who believe there was an error in the grading may wish to appeal a result. If a student feels as though their exam result was incorrect, they can challenge it through an official appeals process. Appeals must adhere to strict timelines and contain written information about why the student feels the BOC should grant their appeal. Simply failing the exam without other substantiating claims (the exam was switched with another applicant's, for example, or they suspect an error in the grading) is not sufficient ground for appeal.
If you are considering appealing the results of your BOC exam, National student defense attorney Joseph. D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm can assist you throughout the appeals process to ensure you have taken all the necessary steps to file an appropriate appeal.
Issues After Passing the BOC Exam
Although they may want to breathe a sigh of relief after successfully passing the BOC exam, students must meet a handful of additional certification requirements that vary from state to state. These are often one of the most complicated post-exam areas. According to the BOC, 49 states and the District of Columbia currently regulate athletic training through their own requirements for clinical licensure. Clinical licensure means that a specific jurisdiction (in this case, the state) has reviewed your education, experience, and references and determined that you are qualified to treat athletic injuries. Some states may require liability insurance, additional fees, or additional background checks to obtain proper licensure in their jurisdictions
Depending on the state, students may face challenges obtaining licensure for unintended actions while working as student athletic trainers. Students are often asked to do things while everything still feels "new." For example, some students may be eager to try things on their own for the first time, such as processing patient intake or doing a physical examination. Others may agree to perform tasks despite feeling overwhelmed. However, if they agree to perform tasks before they are ready, they can injure their patients. For these reasons, faculty members and directors are responsible for determining whether students are competent to perform tasks. Failure to follow your faculty members' or program director's decisions may result in poor recommendations in jurisdictions that require director approval.
Certain jurisdictions may also require additional liability insurance in the form of professional malpractice insurance or errors and omission insurance.
If you are facing issues obtaining state licensure as an athletic trainer due to administrative denials of your application, national student defense attorney Joseph. D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm can help.
Athletic trainers face numerous challenges in today's job market. One issue applicants often face is the difficulty of obtaining employment after completing their professional education because of a criminal history that appears on their record. These histories can be difficult obstacles to overcome for students who have charges of intoxication, burglary, or minor offenses in their past. In most of these cases, it is impossible to get hired if they cannot pass the criminal background check required by their jurisdiction.
Athletic trainer students must be aware of the legal implications of criminal background checks, which are increasingly required for athletic training students. Athletic trainer students are subject to criminal background checks. Students who are concerned about their criminal history may need to work with legal counsel to address disqualifying items on their background check. Counsel can help students pass these background checks by successfully arguing their clients' cases and demonstrating that they are trustworthy.
A National School Defense Attorney Can Help
The potential setbacks to obtaining certification as an athletic trainer can feel complex and overwhelming. However, students facing obstacles to becoming athletic trainers can challenge the process and remove roadblocks that stand in the way of achieving their dreams and starting their careers. National school defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can come alongside you during this difficult time and help. Attorney Lento has successfully represented hundreds of students nationwide in various professional programs, including athletic trainer programs. Attorney Lento has the foresight, skill, and experience with these programs to help you achieve your goals. Call 888-535-3686 for a consultation now, or schedule one online.