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Be Educated About Your Trainer

These days, more than ever before, people are seeking options and education to better themselves. We are educated or “trained” in a variety of areas, from computer applications to sports performance. This has made us better advocates for our own health and wellness.

However, in the sports and fitness world, the word “trainer” has lost its true meaning. Whether you are seeking enhanced performance or rehabilitation, understanding the definitions and qualifications of fitness professionals can help you make educated decisions.

According to the English thesaurus, the word trainer is similar in meaning to the words coach, teacher, guide, instructor and mentor. The terms “fitness trainer,” “personal trainer,” and “athletic trainer” are often used when referencing the person helping one to learn exercise, improve performance, and/or achieve a healthier level of fitness.

William E. Prentice has been writing about these differences for years. In his eighth edition of Essentials of Athletic Injury Management, he separates the specialization into two categories: Performance enhancement and Injury care & management.

Performance enhancement specialties include exercise physiology, biomechanics, sports psychology, sports nutrition, strength and conditioning, personal fitness training, coaching, and physical education. Injury care and management specialties include the practice of medicine, athletic training, sports physical therapy, sports massage therapy, sports dentistry, orthotists and prosthetists, sports chiropractic and sports podiatry.

The National Athletic Trainers Association further defines the differences between the coach, personal trainer and athletic trainer as follows:

Coach–Directly responsible for conditioning programs, safely developing the skills and techniques required for the sport, ensure that equipment is properly fitted, certified in first aid and CPR, and collaborates with other members of the sports medicine team.

Personal Trainer–Prescribes, monitors and changes an individual’s specific exercise program in a fitness or sports setting, may or may not have higher education, continuing education or certification requirements.

Athletic Trainer–Meets qualifications set by a state licensure and/or board of certification, practices athletic training under the direction of a physician, must have a bachelor’s degree in athletic training, pass a comprehensive exam before using the ATC credential, participate in continuing education, and adhere to standards of professional practice set by one national certifying agency.

Armed with this knowledge, you can be proactive with your fitness or rehabilitation choices. If you have questions about the person providing health care for you or your loved ones, ask questions.

Patty Curtiss is a Certified Athletic Trainer, LPGA ‘Class A’ Member, founder of Golf Rehab and co-founder of Bounce You Back in-home care. Her unique Golf Rehab program currently operates at the College Golf Center on the COD campus. Patty can be reached at 760.578.640,, or

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