Legislators’ perception and knowledge of the athletic training profession: Specific considerations for secondary schools

Pike AM, Eason CM, Sterns RL, Tosakoon S, and Casa DJ. J Athl Train. 2019. 54(11).

Full Text Freely Available

Take-Home Message

Many state legislators lack knowledge about an athletic trainer’s educational requirements, qualifications, and responsibilities, which may negatively impact their view of the value of athletic trainers.


Legislation regarding athletic training practice is critical to promote the profession of athletic training and set a standard of care for athletes. However, many state practice acts fall short of outlining best-practice standards. It is important to understand how state legislators view and understand athletic trainers to improve the perception of athletic trainers (ATs) and the standard of care in state practice acts. Therefore, Pike and colleagues sought to explore the view and knowledge of the athletic training profession among state legislators through a mixed-methods cross-sectional study. The research questions which the researchers attempted to answer were, (1) “What were legislators’ perceptions of the value and influence of an AT on physical activity and sports safety?” and (2) “What did legislators perceive to be the qualifications and responsibility of the AT?” The authors emailed a validated online survey to all state legislators in May of 2017. The survey assessed 3 areas of interest: (1) demographics of the state legislators, (2) quantitative measurement of legislators’ knowledge of ATs qualifications and responsibilities, and (3) open-ended questions for respondents to expand on their previous thoughts.

Of the 6841 legislators identified, 143 legislators (2%) from 34 states responded. About 69% of legislators considered an AT to be a trusted source of medical information. However, only 16% considered an AT as the best person to provide daily medical care to an injured athlete. Furthermore, only 30% indicated “AT employed at the school” as a top sports safety measure. The authors also found that a state legislator’s knowledge of the qualifications and responsibilities of an AT related to the value the legislator placed on the role of the AT. Qualitatively, the 3 major themes which emerged were the recognition of the prevention domain, misconceptions about the difference between ATs and personal trainers, and lack of knowledge regarding educational requirements for athletic training.


Overall, the gaps in legislators’ understanding of athletic training are concerning because legislators are responsible for introducing and changing legislation to set standards of practice. If these individuals lack adequate knowledge of athletic training, their ability to draft and amend legislation would be impaired. While athletic training advocates have made significant strides in promoting the profession, this advocacy has not yet impacted the people who can significantly change these laws. The conclusions of this study demonstrate a need for more advocacy of athletic training, especially with a focus on improving our state legislators’ knowledge about the qualifications and responsibilities of ATs. These efforts could also be supported by further research regarding the most effective tools for communication and advocacy. In the meantime, sport medicine clinicians should reach out to their local state legislator to help educate them on athletic training and invite them to athletic training facilities to see firsthand the role of athletic training in sport safety.  

Questions for Discussion

What experiences do you have with advocating for the athletic training profession with those who are not familiar with ATs? Do you feel like those efforts have been successful or unsuccessful, and how could they be improved?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by:  Jeffrey Driban

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