Guest Editorial: ‘The athletic training position absolutely needs to be regulated by the state of California’


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[Photo by Justyn Warner

In the following guest editorial, Nicole Dahl offers some thoughts on California’s athletic training regulations (or lack thereof):

Imagine yourself needing a diagnostic blood test. Would you prefer to have your blood drawn by a certified Phlebotomy Technician who has completed a required number of hours of supervised training, has hands-on experience and has passed a written exam, or would you be comfortable allowing anyone who called themselves a “phlebotomist” to take a stab at jabbing you?

Luckily, that is a choice you do not have to make. Laboratory Field Services are regulated by the California Department of Public Health. Those wishing to practice phlebotomy and draw your blood must meet or exceed tiered standards to earn their title and right to practice in the state of California.

A certification process is standard across the board in healthcare. Nursing, dentistry, home health, and radiology are a few of the many regulated healthcare fields in California. In fact, every healthcare profession is controlled by the state save for one, athletic training.

Strange, right? The California Athletic Trainer’s Association (CATA) seems to think so and, seeing as March is National Athletic Training Month, the group is creating a buzz and calling for legislative change concerning the lack of rules and state regulation in their field.

California is the only state in the nation that has absolutely no legal protocols for athletic training professionals. What does this mean and why should you care? Well, if you or anyone you know is an athlete or works with an athletic trainer, it could mean life or death, or, less dramatic, injury or wellness, for you.

Athletic trainers, not to be confused with personal trainers, focus on preventing and treating injuries. While employers may have their own credential requirements for the athletic trainers they hire, such as a college degree or CPR training, the state of California does not regulate the profession which means anyone in the Golden State can call themselves an athletic trainer.

Athletic trainers work at health clubs, physical therapy clinics, on rodeo circuits, at high schools, and on college campuses. Beyond working with athletes and those seeking to get into shape, athletic trainers can be found in both in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation centers.

Concerning high school and college sports, should the team’s athletic trainer, the person making snap decisions about head injuries and hydration levels, be state certified? For Mary Stewart, an athletic trainer here in Humboldt county and mother of two young athletes, it is a no brainer.

The athletic training position absolutely needs to be regulated by the state of California,” Stewart states. “Right now there are 151 high schools in our state employing non-certified athletic trainers. These people are taking care of our kids, some without any training whatsoever.”

Stewart is a member of CATA and joins the association in the fight for AB-3110, a bill that would bring the athletic training profession up to par with the rest of the healthcare industry, requiring education, national board certification and licensure for all athletic trainers in the state of California and establishing service parameters for the position.

Stewart encourages everyone to call their local and state politicians and ask them to fight for AB-3110. “California has become the go-to state for athletic trainers who are unable to obtain or lose certification in other states,” she declares. “Currently, there are nine states who forbid California athletic trainers to travel and practice in their state, which is a shame because we have an incredible pool of athletic trainer talent here in California. It’s the lack of licensure they have a problem with.”

There are fifteen accredited athletic training undergraduate programs in the nation, seven of which are in the California university system. Why is it that California offers more athletic training education opportunities than any other state, yet remains the only state without certification standards and a licensure program?

According to the CATA, several organizations, including a variety of medical groups, youth safety advocacy organizations, the NCAA, NHL, CIF, National Federation of State High School Associations, are in favor of Athletic Training Licensure. CATA claims that without a state licensure program, there can be no board accountability, a dangerous scenario when taking responsibility for the health of another.

For more information, visit and to read the bill in its entirety visit



  • We have some of the BEST at College of the Redwoods! They are certified and I appreciate the long hours and hard work they put in to keeping our student athletes safe.

  • Up to par with with the rest? Should already be over qualified then.

  • Athletic Trainers ARE FOR the bill
    AB-3110. We want others to help support us, by contacting the state government and requesting this bill be passed! It helps protect the athletic trainers we have already here, that work hard and love their job!!

  • SickofSocialists


  • I’d like to know more about “athletic trainers” and their knowledge of Traumatic Brain Injury. Do they advocate for ending tackle football? If not, they should never be certified as necessary or beneficial, as the aggrandizement of brute force “sports” will keep the injuries and deaths happening, and the “trainers” employed, with or without certification.

    • Athletic Trainers take care of TBIs. We attend trainings and educate ourselves on the current testing and protocols to help take care of athletes and other people with head trauma. Football, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, volleyball, wtedtling, baseball, basketball, softball, just to name a few sports, have concussions all the time. The recognition, treatment, & management are so important with concussions and TBIs. That’s what athletic trainers are trained to do.
      Ending a contact sport is never gonna happen, but having a team of medical staff and return to play protocol is beneficial.

  • Sounds like bs to me. Someone is pissy about some non certified person who is probably getting all the business or contracts. Mary may be great but that does not make her the poster child. Stop this over regulation bs. It’s what drives the costs up.

    • I’m sorry you feel this way, I am trying to educate people. California is the ONLY state not licensing Athletic Training. Why? California over regulates everything.
      I am not upset over anyone getting business or clients. Just want people to get care from qualified people. It’s your health, doesn’t that count for anything.

  • Uncle Sam, that's who I am

    Yes government regulation will save you

  • WOD before u ready can herniate something


    Then there would be protocol for participating in CrossFit or whatever (compile data like age, health history, current/past injuries issues etc for each client ) so that the trainer wasn’t treating every participant the same.. I know trainers like to dump it back on the participant (never go beyond your ability) but I think part of the trust u wish to establish is violated if the trainer allows unsafe or contraindicated activities and leads to injuries and worse..

    Certifying trainers would facilitate a safer /better experience and greater success for those seeking help reaching a higher fitness level

    • Personal training is different. That’s not what this article is about.

      Athletic Trainers are healthcare professionals who do injury prevention, evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation.

  • I’m sorry you feel this way, I am trying to educate people. California is the ONLY state not licensing Athletic Training. Why? California over regulates everything.
    I am not upset over anyone getting business or clients. Just want people to get care from qualified people. It’s your health, doesn’t that count for anything.

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