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  • Writer's pictureDavid Gallegos

It's What We Do


Athletic Training is now at a time where the great re-evaluation is knocking at the door and like many professions, we are asking many questions. Will we choose to answer looking, acting, thinking and feeling like we did in 2019? Will we spend the time to reflect, discuss and redefine success? We all are doing this within our individual lives and finding great freedom from changing our mindset. An overwhelming market demand, new remote opportunities and expanded understanding of our capabilities challenges what was once thought foundational. The tension found between what is and what can be is invigorating. We may see it as conflict, misunderstandings and unwanted change. It is also seen as practice advancement, self-advocacy and new strategic plans. Either way it is transformative.

Innovation is in the DNA of our great profession. If you track the profession far enough back, you will find that what we now call our professional practice domains where once the fundamental pieces felt necessary to practice athletic health care. The initial curriculums did not have the luxury of pulling from athletic training coursework. Instead, courses were adopted from already existing fields. Courses from physical education and personal wellness, emergency medicine, physical therapy, and healthcare administration coupled with our practice partners in primary care and orthopedics were the fundamental pieces of AT education. Fast forward almost 75 years and you will find practice domains rooted in these foundational efforts. Creating a completely new degree, a degree that is tailored to work as a primary care provider was an amazing feat and a possibly a foundational characteristic of why we excel in inter-professional teams. Clinical rotations in sports settings are often a missing piece in the discussion of our healthcare delivery model. Athletics are now the focus of many complaints because work outside the arena requires personal and professional advocacy to share the role of an AT, explain the title and advocate for expanded practice specialties. We rightfully focus on our domains as a way to help explain our value and worth in many situations. Yet, we must also remember that the healthcare delivery model allowed and expected in athletics, where we have so tightly identified as our specialty, amplifies our skill set. It is not easily divided and one must consider what we know, where we learn and how we practice as all critical parts of what we do.


The creative conflict and tension we are experiencing as a result of a changing world requires careful navigation. The thinking that makes innovation so impactful is grounded in what Dr. Matt Kutz refers to as 3D thinking. Understanding the past, setting a vision of the future and utilizing both to make decisions today are all pieces that must be addressed for strategic growth. So, then who can we ask for historical perspectives on our opportunities, our foundations, our original vision(s) and even our challenges? These original innovators are still active and as passionate as any of us. Unfortunately, there are few of them and our ability to access them is quickly dwindling. One game changing AT was Dr. Gary Delforge Ret. AT (University of Arizona). If you know about the history of AT competencies, post-graduate education and the process of professionalization, then you know Dr. D. He, among a group of select ATs, shifted athletic training towards a definition of what it is required to be a profession. If you have the chance to read the transcripts from Dr. Delforge's NATA Keynote in Denver, Colorado you will see we are still on the path. Innovation is based on finding opportunity for transformation and overcoming barriers to growth. This is exactly what Dr. Delforge championed.


We continue to consider innovation a critical part of what we do. We are looking for new practice settings, 3rd party reimbursement, alignment with public health perspectives, clinical doctorate education, internationalization, and private practice to name a few. These innovations would not be a discussion today had the innovation that Dr. Delforge and others set in place 50 years ago not been supported by our national association. I can only imagine the debate and discussion surrounding athletic training as a major, expanding practice specialties and specialty certifications were likely key decision points and challenging to our professional identity. Giants such as Dr. Gary Delforge, Dr. Robert Behnke, Lindsey McLean, Pinky Newell, Dr. John Schrader among many others have supported such innovation since our inception.


I am honored and excited to share this short story of Dr. Gary Delforge, Ret.AT. If in discussions and advocacy efforts, our BOC domains, transferrable skillsets or AMA recognition are shared, then you are standing on the shoulders of giants. Please join me in recognizing the amazing ATs that push to make us a better profession and better professionals and those doing the same before them.


Cheers to innovation. It's what we do!


AT Passion,


David Gallegos

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