Maintaining Professional Standards

Standards of Professional Practice

Implemented January 1, 2006

The mission of the Board of Certification Inc. (Standards of Professional Practice) is to provide exceptional credentialing programs for healthcare professionals. The Standards of Professional Practice has been responsible for the certification of Athletic Trainers since 1969. Upon its inception, the Standards of Professional Practice was a division of the professional membership organization the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. However, in 1989, the Standards of Professional Practice became an independent non-profit corporation.

Accordingly, the Standards of Professional Practice provides a certification program for the entry-level Athletic Trainer that confers the ATC® credential and establishes requirements for maintaining status as a Certified Athletic Trainer (to be referred to as “Athletic Trainer” from this point forward). A nine member Board of Directors governs the Standards of Professional Practice. There are six Athletic Trainer Directors, one Physician Director, one Public Director and one Corporate/Educational Director.

The Standards of Professional Practiceis the only accredited certification program for Athletic Trainers in the United States. Every five years, the Standards of Professional Practice must undergo review and re-accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA is the accreditation body of the National Organization for Competency Assurance.

The Standards of Professional Practice consists of two sections:

  1. Practice Standards
  2.  Code of Professional Responsibility

I. Practice Standards


The Practice Standards (Standards) establish essential practice expectations for all Athletic Trainers. Compliance with the Standards is mandatory. The Standards are intended to:

  • assist the public in understanding what to expect from an Athletic Trainer
  • assist the Athletic Trainer in evaluating the quality of patient care
  • assist the Athletic Trainer in understanding the duties and obligations imposed by virtue of   holding the ATC® credential

The Standards are NOT intended to:

  • prescribe services
  • provide step-by-step procedures
  • ensure specific patient outcomes

The Standards of Professional Practicedoes not express an opinion on the competence or warrant job performance of credentialholders; however, every Athletic Trainer and applicant must agree to comply with the Standards at all times.

Standard 1: Direction

The Athletic Trainer renders service or treatment under the direction of a physician.

Standard 2: Prevention

The Athletic Trainer understands and uses preventive measures to ensure the highest quality of care for every patient.

Standard 3: Immediate Care

The Athletic Trainer provides standard immediate care procedures used in emergency situations, independent of setting.

Standard 4: Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis

Prior to treatment, the Athletic Trainer assesses the patient’s level of function. The patient’s input is considered an integral part of the initial assessment. The Athletic Trainer follows standardized clinical practice in the area of diagnostic reasoning and medical decision making.

Standard 5: Treatment, Rehabilitation and Reconditioning

In development of a treatment program, the Athletic Trainer determines appropriate treatment, rehabilitation and/or reconditioning strategies. Treatment program objectives include long and short term goals and an appraisal of those which the patient can realistically be expected to achieve from the program. Assessment measures to determine effectiveness of the program are incorporated into the program.

Standard 6: Program Discontinuation

The Athletic Trainer, with collaboration of the physician, recommends discontinuation of the athletic training service when the patient has received optimal benefit of the program. The Athletic Trainer, at the time of discontinuation, notes the final assessment of the patient’s status.

Standard 7: Organization and Administration

All services are documented in writing by the Athletic Trainer and are part of the patient’s permanent records. The Athletic Trainer accepts responsibility for recording details of the patient’s health status.

II. Code of Professional Responsibility


The Code of Professional Responsibility (Code) mandates that Standards of Professional Practice credential holders and applicants act in a professionally responsible manner in all athletic training services and activities. The Standards of Professional Practice requires all Athletic Trainers and applicants to comply with the Code. The Standards of Professional Practice may discipline, revoke or take other action with regard to the application or certification of an individual that does not adhere to the Code. The Professional Practice and Discipline Guidelines and Procedures may be accessed via the Standards of Professional Practice website,

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