ATC Skill Set – Critical Thinking

22 Feb

The typical athletic trainer has a diverse skill set that they constantly develop.  This series of blog entries will seek to focus on the skill set that most athletic trainers possess in order to effectively do their job in the traditional setting.  Collectively, this skill set makes the AT a very valuable and unique resource to the athletes, coaches and administration that they serve.

Critical Thinking Skills

What is the most important modality in the athletic training room?

What is the one thing the athletic training room couldn’t function without?

These 2 questions are often questions that I may ask the student ATs from a local ATEP program where I am a CI.  The 1st question isn’t fair as it is a loaded question, but the 2nd question should lead you down the right thinking path.  The answer I am looking for is “the athletic trainer.”  The AT is the most important modality because of their critical thinking skills.  The AT must assess an injury and then decide the treatment plan.  Does the injury require a physician to look at it?  Does the injury need ice or heat?  Does the injury need stim or ultrasound?  Does the injury need tape or a brace?  Is that headache a concussion or sinus pressure?  Is the athlete throwing up because of nerves or a stomach bug?

The athletic trainer’s greatest service that they provide is their ability to think on their feet.  Every ankle sprain is different.  Every muscle strain is different.  Every athlete is different.  Every situation is different.  It is up to the critical thinking skills of the AT to think through things every day.  In a conversation that I had with a retired AT who is now teaching, I asked him if he missed athletic training.  He stated rather emphatically no.  I asked him “really, not even the games?”  He said the only thing that he missed was critical thinking.  As a teacher, everything was planned, most things were monotonous, there was little critical thinking skills. 

The critical thinking skill is the best aspect of athletic training.  It is what keeps our job interesting and any thing but boring.  It is also what seperates the better ATs from the not-so-good ATs.  It is a skill that improves with experience.  

Do you think you could be an effective AT with no modalities?  

Do you think there could be effective athletic health care  in a college or high school with the most modern athletic training room available but without an AT?

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