Athletic Training Fellowship Programs with Emory Sports Medicine

The Emory Sports Medicine–Innovation Sports Athletic Training Residency started in 2003, with the first class of two athletic trainers graduating in July of 2004. The residency has since grown to a class of five athletic training residents. William I. Sterett, MD, at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, CO, and Laura C. Decoster, ATC, at New Hampshire Musculoskeletal Institute, initiated residencies for athletic trainers about 12 years ago.

Forrest Pecha, ATC and John W. Xerogeanes, MD wanted to develop a program that would provide athletic trainers with a unique educational opportunity to gain knowledge and skills specific to the needs of sports-medicine physicians.  Both Forrest and Dr. Xerogeanes trained at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, CO and wanted to create a program similar to what the Steadman Hawkins Clinic offers. They looked at the elements of an orthopedic sports medicine fellowship and adapted them for athletic trainers. They started by implementing a journal club and symposium, a biweekly meeting for discussion of recent journal articles and current trends in treatment of orthopedic injuries. Each athletic training resident is able to spend a minimum of 40 hours with a radiologist learning about imaging studies.  After completing a comprehensive course that addresses all facets of working in the operating room and attaining their certification from the National Board of Certification for Orthopaedic Technologists, the residents are granted scrub privileges. Our athletic training residents are allowed to attend the Emory School of Medicine’s summer education program, which includes anatomic dissection, physical exam, clinical correlation, and science lectures on orthopedic topics. The curriculum also includes content relating to casting and splinting, durable medical equipment, and practice business management, which addresses billing for services provided by athletic trainers in the clinic and operating room.

Our physicians feel that an appropriately prepared athletic trainer is the very best option for clinical assistance in a sports-medicine practice—better than a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Working in the clinical setting, athletic trainers acquire patient histories, perform physical exams, and then report the findings to the physician, which makes the physician’s time with the patient more efficient. Athletic trainers can also be relied on to explain the injury diagnosis to the patient and to relate the nature of a necessary surgical procedure. Patients appreciate having a knowledgeable and readily accessible contact in the physician’s practice who they can call get answers to their medical questions.

There is growing interest among numerous organizations for the creation of additional athletic training residencies. Unfortunately, some might be more interested in the availability of cheap labor than the educational benefits provided by the residency. The NATA has recently developed accreditation standards for certified athletic training residencies.  This will help provide consistency through the creation of residency programs and assure that each organization is providing the residents with the appropriate educational opportunities and skills.

Kathryn Bonecutter, MS, ATC
Emory Sports Medicine Center