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What is appropriate training in Sports Medicine?

What is appropriate training in Sports Medicine?

How do you know the Sports Medicine professional you are seeing knows what they are doing?  When we go to a physician, or an accountatnt, or even hair stylists, we all know to look for some type of licensure or professional certification to ensure that the individual we are seeing has knowledge and experience that pertains to what we're there for.  But how do you do this when you see Sports Medicine professionals?

This question is easily answered in some sports medicine areas.  Professionals in areas like Athletic Training or Nutrition usually have both certifications from national governing bodies and state licensure to practice.  Thus, if you see an Athletic Trainer for an injury, they should be both licensed in the state that you are in, as well as being a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).  If you are seeing someone for sports-related nutrition, in most cases, to give you eating plans and guidance, the individual has to be a Registered Dietician (RD) as well as have a state-license.

The question however gets really murky when we get to personal trainers and other fitness staff.  In all cases, there are no state licenses for most fitness staff (there is one notable exception that we'll cover in just a minute) and a wide-range of professional certificates and credentials one might have.  If you are in generally good physical health and are looking for conditioning/physical training help, it is always a good start to work with someone who has at minimum, a Bachelor's degree in a field like Kinesiology or Exercise Science.  While some folks with other bachelor's degrees might try to convince you that they have the background to work with your fitness program, remember, you wouldn't normally go to an accountant for medical help, so stick with folks that have been trained to work with healthy individuals in strength and conditioning programs. 

With this type of foundational training, in most cases, this individual has good basic knowledge in training principles, exercise physiology, motor control, and the other type of background needed to help you meet your exercise goals.  In addition to a four-year degree though, look for someone who has advanced certifications.  Now be warned, there are over 1400 certifying agencies out there and many - if not most - have extremely minimal standards to get a training certificate.  Thus, you want to look for fitness professionals that have certifications from reputable organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).  These two non-profit professional organizations have been at it the longest and have worked diligently over the years to insure that their certification programs are rigorous.

So, be discerning before you trust just anyone to guide you in physical activity and conditioning.  Find out if they have a degree in Exercise Science or Kinesiology and what certifications they have....and check out the certifications to find out if they are worth the paper they are printed on.  Your health is the most valuable resource you have; why trust it to just anyone?



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