Why Athletic Trainers are an Ergonomic Fit

June 2, 2021

Certified Athletic Trainers are increasingly being recruited to work as ergonomic practitioners in industrial settings. In this role, a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) can help prevent musculoskeletal injuries in settings like warehouses, labs, manufacturing plants, and office buildings. ATCs can be valuable members of an occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) team, performing workstation evaluations; training workers on safe posture, techniques, and tools; and managing ergonomic programs aimed at reducing injuries and optimizing productivity.

What makes athletic trainers a good fit for an ergonomics job?

ATCs are highly qualified, multi-skilled healthcare professionals educated in anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology. They must hold a bachelor's or master's degree in athletic training, and are able to provide preventative and emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. ATCs must also pass an examination by the Board of Certification, maintain their certification through continuing education, and be licensed to practice in the majority of states.
ATCs are specifically trained in injury prevention, have an acute knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the human body, and are experienced in rehabilitation and recovery. According to a national survey conducted by NATA, 68% of industrial companies that utilize the services of an athletic trainer indicated the ATC helped decrease restricted workdays and workers' compensation claims for musculoskeletal disorders by more than 25%.

Ergonomics Cross-Training for ATCs

Although ATCs are experienced in both injury prevention and treatment, they may not have formal training in quantifying ergonomics risk exposure, or the human factors principals that address the whole human and systems they work within.

According to Heather Koster, MS, ATC, CEAS II, "The coursework provided in athletic training programs does not typically expose future ATs to the industrial setting. Looking outside of a typical college setting and taking on courses in environmental health and safety or industry standard can open a lot of doors and opportunities that are not typically highlighted."

ATCs looking to expand their skillset can do so from the convenience of their own home or office. Opportunities for evidence-based assessment tools and the latest information about human factors and ergonomics research is available online, and in some cases, for free. For example, COEH hosts free monthly ergonomics webinars in partnership with Education and Research Centers around the country. The majority of webinars are recorded and can be watched for free on YouTube.

For the ATC that wants to expand their credentials to include professional certification in ergonomics, there are a number of distance learning opportunities available from reputable universities that count towards educational requirements for the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE).

COEH is also proud to offer the Online Human Factors and Ergonomics Training Program, designed to provide practitioners with the tools, confidence, and competence to advance their career in HF/E. COEH is approved by the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC AP#: P10242) to provide continuing education to Certified Athletic Trainers. Our courses are also mapped to educational requirements for the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics.

Occupational healthcare can benefit tremendously from the expertise of ATCs as the profession expands beyond athletics.