Athletic Trainers Make a Positive Impact on Workers’ Compensation Costs

Avery Curcio

A new model of injury care and prevention – the athletic trainer – is helping employers better understand musculoskeletal injuries and how to prevent them. Concentra’s experience with the athletic trainer model – both in conjunction with an onsite center and as a standalone service – shows how athletic trainers can help reduce lost workdays and recordable cases that must be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“The old way of handling musculoskeletal cases in the work environment was, ‘Well, we're here at Acme packaging. We’ve got a guy who slipped and sprained his ankle. We’ve got to send him into some outpatient occupational health center, and we hope it doesn't get expensive. We hope it doesn't turn into litigation. We hope it doesn't become a recordable injury,’” says Chris Studebaker, DPT, OCS, PT, national director of onsite therapy and athletic trainers for Concentra®.

“That model was fine for treating an isolated injury and getting that person back on the job. But it didn’t always address some of the underlying issues that lead to people getting reinjured. So businesses started looking for a different model,” says Studebaker, who presented the Concentra webinar, “Athletic Trainers and Preventing Work Injury,” in July 2020.

In 2018, there were more than 2.8 million recordable, nonfatal injuries and illnesses in the United States and 900,400 cases involving days away from work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 These are numbers an onsite athletic trainer may be able to help employers reduce.

What is an athletic trainer?

Onsite athletic trainers are allied health professionals who specialize in injury prevention, assessment, instruction, and coaching. By viewing employees engaged in physical activity as industrial athletes, athletic trainers help employers maximize productivity and prevent injury.

“The occupational athletic trainer is knowledgeable in the design, implementation, and measurement of injury prevention, injury reduction, and return-to-work programs,” says the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. “Certified athletic trainers are highly qualified, highly motivated health care providers to help a company achieve health, safety, and profitability goals.”

Athletic trainers’ capabilities and skills

Athletic trainers take a collaborative, integrative approach in working with many leaders in an organization – safety, human resources, operations, and more – with the goal of identifying safety concerns before they happen, educating employees about safety risks, and helping to prepare employees to perform their daily functions safely and injury-free.

Athletic trainers use four design tools for injury prevention. They are:

  • Job analysis. Athletic trainers observe job functions and identify where problems may occur.
  • Work readiness. Athletic trainers develop physical readiness and conditioning programs targeted to individuals or departments.
  • First aid. Athletic trainers conduct symptom assessment, develop plans, and decide when to involve physicians.
  • Health and wellness. Athletic trainers develop programs that increase employees’ health while improving productivity at work.

Athletic trainers also are involved with injury management and use two different tools:

  • Case management. Athletic trainers facilitate communication among employers, physicians, insurance companies, and employees.
  • Return to work. Athletic trainers monitor medical care, transitional work, reduced time away from work and indirect cost savings.

Athletic trainers are highly skilled and trained. To become a certified athletic trainer, individuals must complete a board examination for national certification. Currently, 70 percent of athletic trainers have a master’s degree.

Concentra is a leader in using the athletic trainer model

Concentra deploys many athletic trainers across the country and across many industries. They have been achieving positive results for many years. A recent example from one of Concentra’s clients is a large semiconductor manufacturer that had experienced a steady increase in workplace injuries and associated workers’ compensation costs over seven years. The company enlisted the services of a Concentra athletic trainer near the end of the seventh year. Results for the first full year of the athletic trainer’s services showed a dramatic drop (more than 1,200 percent) in workers’ compensation costs.


Are you concerned about your company’s injury rate? Are your recordables too high? What about productivity? Are too many lost workdays due to injury holding you back? An athletic trainer may be the solution for you. Contact us if you would like to discuss having an athletic trainer at your worksite.

Download the new Concentra whitepaper, “Is an Athletic Trainer the Answer to Work Injury Déjà vu?”

1 Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.