Evidence Based Practice in Athletic Training

Evidence based practice in athletic training, or EBP, is an extension of the broader concept of evidence based medicine as popularized in sports medicine in recent years. EBP is founded upon a number of progressive concepts, the first of which is that in order to treat a real life physical problem observed in an athlete, the treating therapist or trainer must have access to relevant and current resources.

Athletic trainers are the professional persons that typically are a part of a larger sports medicine organization or network. Athletic trainers are most often the first line contact between an athlete and all required professional sports medicine treatment and education. An athletic trainer is responsible for such diverse physical training issues as injury prevention, recognition, and preliminary evaluation through first aid response. Athletic trainers provide ongoing care and support to athletes through the provision of such services as athletic taping of injured musculoskeletal structures; the athletic trainer, often working under the direction of a physiotherapist, assists in the day to day management and rehabilitation of an athletic injury. Athletic trainers are an essential feature of team sports, and qualified trainers will be included in large scale athletic organizations such as a university or a national track and field team; the services of athletic trainers are commonly engaged at commercial sport facilities such as health and fitness clubs.

Athletic trainers are subject to government regulation in many countries; in some jurisdictions, athletic training is a course of either community college or university study, coupled with practical experience in the field. National organizations such as the American National Athletic Trainers Association, provide both a measure of self regulation to their industry, a variety of professional designations, and a membership resource for continuing education.

The body of academic literature now available to athletic trainers, therapists, and sports scientists with respect to the assessment and treatment of all manner of physical injuries and conditions is immense; trainers may find themselves swamped when undertaking a search through the available material for helpful information concerning a particular clinical problem that they seek to treat. EBP is a methodology that assists a trainer as to how they can utilize research materials to assist in making the best sports therapy treatment decisions.

Prior to the advent of Internet-based information sources such as comprehensive search engines, topic directed chat rooms and user forums, and on line periodicals and texts, the research available to the athletic trainer was restricted to library resources, hard copy material that was not always current, or through consultations with fellow professionals. The sheer volume of published scientific data concerning training issues is now immense; the availability of the Internet is also a stimulus to trainers and other professionals to circulate their research on any given topic. It is estimated that for an athletic trainer to remain completely current in the field, the trainer would have to read between ten and twenty periodical articles per day that are published or are otherwise available via the Internet, an impossibility for most athletic trainers given the practical demands of their day to day responsibilities.

EBP is a means by which the research findings from diverse Internet, hard copy, and other sources may be effectively synthesized into a useful application to a clinical training problem. EBP is in essence a search strategy that will assist an athletic trainer in the formulation of research guidelines that can be applied to every research problem.

The first step in any EBP application is the formulation of the most accurate and the most succinct wording of the training issue to be researched. As a general academic proposition, the more focused the question to be answered, the more effective the resulting research. As an example, an research issue described as "best method to tape an knee where the athlete suffers from tendinitis" is very broad, as there are a number of tendons in the vicinity of the knee that might be afflicted; a better, EBP styled question would be "best method to tape a knee with patellar tendinitis," which permits a focused approach to research.

The evolution of Internet search engines such as Google® has spawned a science in the developing of keyword search techniques. With a tightly focused research question, directly tied to the practical problem faced by the athletic therapist, the results of an Internet search are more likely to be relevant to the issue. In this fashion, EBP can be effective in producing a more restricted body of academic material for the athletic trainer to evaluate, a saving of time and a likely greater quality of research.

SEE ALSO Sport performance; Sports medical Conditions; Sport medicine education.