AT Glossary

Compiled by Athletic Training Strategic Alliance Inter-Agency Terminology Work Group, the following is a list of common definitions to be used across the athletic training profession.

For Glossary Suggestions

The glossary is planned to be updated annually. If there are terms that you would like to see added to the glossary or other comments you have about the glossary, send those to with the subject line “Athletic Training Glossary. “ We cannot assure that all requests will be fulfilled, but we can assure that the work group that meets annually to review the suggested terms and to review the existing terms will consider your suggestions.

Inter-Agency Terminology Group Members

The Inter-Agency Terminology Group Members include representation from all four AT Strategic Alliance Partners: BOC, CAATE, NATA and the NATA Foundation.

Responsibility will rotate throughout the alliance members, on an annual basis, to identify the chair and to provide a staff member to support the ad hoc group that will do the updates. Each member of the strategic alliance will identify members to fill the ad hoc group.



The academic doctoral degree (e.g. PhD, EdD) is the highest degree awarded by universities and is usually the credential necessary for appointment in academia, typically as a tenure-track faculty member (e.g. Assistant, Associate or Full Professor) or as a research scientist.


Health care professionals who render service or treatment, under the direction of or in collaboration with a physician, in accordance with their education and training and the states’ statutes, rules and regulations. As a part of the health care team, services provided by ATs include injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.


A student currently enrolled in courses while matriculating through a CAATE accredited professional education program.


A CAQ demonstrates completion of an educational training program and passing an examination, or series of examinations, to demonstrate employment-based proficiency and ensure attainment of specific knowledge and skills in an area. Certificates of added qualification are not a credential, and do not grant the holder the right to practice beyond that which the professional credential affords.


A concentrated learning program that provides structured, systematic educational and training experiences, based on the provider’s criteria, but is not usually an objective, independent measure of competence against national standards.


A voluntary process by which a practitioner’s entry-level knowledge and skills are demonstrated and measured against a defined standard.


“Clinical decision making is a contextual, continuous, and evolving process, where data are gathered, interpreted, and evaluated in order to select an evidence-based choice of action.” (Source DOI:


The teaching and application of athletic training knowledge, skills and clinical abilities on an actual patient base that is evaluated and feedback provided by a preceptor as a part of an accredited athletic training program. (Source: CAATE Standards)


“Professional competence is the habitual and judicious use of communication, knowledge, technical skills, clinical reasoning, emotions, values, and reflection in daily practice for the benefit of the individual and community served. Competence builds on a foundation of clinical skills, scientific knowledge and moral development.” (Source: Epstein RM. Hundert EM. Defining and Assessing Professional Competence. JAMA 2002;287(2):227-235)


“The term continuing education (CE) is an all-encompassing term within a broad spectrum of post-secondary learning activities and programs. Within the healthcare professions the terms continuing medical education (CME) is commonly used. Credentialed professionals are often required to engage in CE activities and report the CEUs to the appropriate credentialing or licensing agency as a condition of maintaining their credentials to practice.” (Source:


“Continuing education units (CEU) are awarded by many educational and training providers to signify successful completion of non-credit programs and courses designed to improve the knowledge and skills of working adults. Among the most common uses of CEUs are to record refresher, transitional, or knowledge accomplishments for professional workers undergoing what is called continuing professional education.” (Source:


Conceptual models that provide a framework for clinical practice and research. They conceptualize patient function as an interaction between a person’s health condition, environmental factors, and personal factors (World Health Organization). The athletic training profession has adopted/endorsed the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) as the preferred disablement model for the profession.


A post-professional training program in a highly specialized area of athletic training used to further focus the clinician’s area of specialization. Fellowships require formal training beyond the successful completion of a residency program. (This is not associated with the NATA Fellows which is an award program.)


A paid, but temporary, employment position. This position may or may not include employee benefits and is guided by college/university policy and applicable legislation for employing a graduate assistant. The primary objective is to financially support the student’s academic studies.


The process of learning with, about and from other health care providers.


Regulated process established by statute whereas it would be illegal for an individual to practice without a license.


The provision of athletic training services (i.e. injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions) to an actual patient.


“Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” (Source:


A post-doctoral research fellowship is a directed, highly individualized training program designed to prepare the participant, who already received a doctoral degree, to function as an independent investigator and research scholar. The purpose of post-doctoral fellowship programs is to develop highly specialized expertise in the scientific research process. (This is not associated with the NATA Fellows which is an award program.)


A clinical doctoral degree (e.g. DAT) is a post-professional degree requiring both a research and clinical component that develops knowledge and skills within a certain discipline to provide service or care within the scope of a particular profession’s clinical practice. The purpose of attaining a post-professional clinical doctoral degree is to become a clinical scholar with advanced knowledge and skills needed for the delivery of patient care at the highest levels.


A certified and/or licensed professional who teaches and/or evaluates students in a clinical setting using an actual patient base.


A person with intentions to enroll in an accredited athletic training program. Students are not involved in the provision of athletic training services and the role of pre-professional students is bound by state practice acts.


The preparation of the student who is in the process of becoming an athletic trainer (AT.) Professional education culminates with eligibility for Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC) certification and appropriate state credential.


Post-professional Athletic Training Residency Programs are formal educational programs that offer structured curricula and mentorship, including didactic and clinical components, to educate athletic trainers in a specialty area. They are designed to build upon and expand the athletic trainer’s knowledge and experience acquired during professional (entry-level) education.


A voluntary post-professional education and training process by which an athletic trainer demonstrates that he/she has met defined standards beyond that required for professional-level certification. A specialty certification may lead to its own credential and will have a recertification requirement.


The documentation each participant receives verifying participation and completion of a continuing education activity.


“A physical presence of the clinical instructor allowing for ‘visual and verbal’ contact between the preceptor and the student with ‘the ability for the preceptor to intervene on behalf of the patient’.” (Source: CAATE: 2007 Standards)


An unlicensed, non-credentialed individual who performs tasks designated by a Certified Athletic Trainer. These individuals are not permitted to provide patient care. Non-patient care services such as facility maintenance, stocking supplies, preparing equipment for use, inventory and cleaning may be performed by support personnel. These individuals and their supervisors must be in compliance with Department of Labor standards and state practice acts.