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ATC, CSCS, PT, PhD: Alphabet Soup, Oh My!

We're all working towards the same goal; to make healthier and stronger athletes that move better. I was having a conversation the other day regarding scope of practice with a physical therapist friend of mine and we starting talking about limits of our respective practice. This got me thinking about how these limits constrain our education within this field.

Within each discipline you will find a core unit of practitioners who are highly protective of their industry. For example, ATCs may tell strength coaches to stay away from doing "XYZ" because that is out of their scope. You also might find strength coaches telling PT's that they need to stop implementing "ABC" regarding program design because 'it's their territory'.I will be the first to say that I completely understand and agree with the general standards of our scope of practice. Understand that the grey areas between the scopes are becoming ever more slimmer.  There have been many times when I 'use' to personal train athletes that if they score poorly on the Functional Movement Screen, I referred them out. If that had positive indicators of pain doing "XYZ", I'd refer.  This just makes sense to me. I'm not an expert at physical therapy. I'm not an expert at diagnosing injuries. I'm not an expert nor can/should be, putting my hands on athletes with manual therapy. This is where the referring and scope of practice should be.

However, I think it's in our industries best interest to UNDERSTAND what each practice does. I'm not going to go back to school to become an ATC or Physical Therapist but you can bet your buck that I'm reading textbooks and continuing education material regarding the topic. "Why", might you ask? I believe having the understanding of each practice helps aid the athlete in all of our respective goals. We're all here to make healthier and stronger athletes move better and more efficiently.

If I can understand what the ATC is looking for in injuries, I will be on the ball when I suspect an nagging injury or signs of "XYZ". This doesn't mean I'll step outside of my scope of practice, but it does mean I'll be quick to refer the athlete because of my education. Regarding physical therapy (something I've been extensively reading on lately), if I can understand the progressions the PT is doing with an injured athlete, I can efficiently and more safely begin developing strength training progressions and protocols that will help aid in the transition from an ATC, to a PT, to a strength coach.

I encourage you to not sell yourself short. If your a coach, or a PT or any other discipline; start reading other materials outside of your field. I'm not advocating to extend your practice outside of your scope, but rather gain an understanding of how each of our fields work towards the same positive goal. I'm still supporting becoming an absolute beast of knowledge within your own field, but to begin looking at other disciplines as a source to improve your own knowledge and the progress of our athletes.

Adam Ringler

Adam Ringler

Adam Ringler, MS, SCCC, CSCS is a hard working, loyal, and competitive Strength & Conditioning Coach at the University of Colorado. Born on Television, Raised by wolves.

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