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History of the World Federation of Athletic Training and Therapy

President's Roundtable (2020) | Transcript

The concept of a global organization representing athletic training began in 1998 in Dallas, Texas, when National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) President Kent Falb and the NATA Board of Directors ordered a study “to examine the education, credentialing, and development” of athletic training worldwide. At that time, athletic training/athletic therapy, as we knew it, existed only in North America.  The United States and Canada had the only formalized educational programs and structured credentialing processes for athletic trainers and therapists.  Other countries had practitioners providing medical care to athletes but those providers included nurses, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and others.

The World Federation of Athletic Training & Therapy (WFATT) was formed in 2000, at a June meeting in Los Angeles, California.  Under the leadership of the NATA and Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA), the primary purpose was to provide a forum for health care professionals to exchange ideas, treatment techniques, and knowledge.  Dr. Michael Ferrara (NATA) was the first President from 2000 - 2005.  


The vision was to be “an organization of associations whose vision to improve healthcare for athletes and physically active individuals”.  That vision continues today, although, based on decisions made at a 2016 strategic planning, the vision was modified to state “Athletic Training & Therapy will be recognized as an essential part of multidisciplinary healthcare teams worldwide”.  The previous vision later reflected as a mission statement: “The World Federation of Athletic Training and Therapy provides leadership to advance the international interests of its members for the common goal of optimal health care for physically active populations”. The subtle changes on the vision and mission represent a maturing of the profession worldwide among the member organizations.


In the early years of the WFATT, through sponsorship from Johnson & Johnson and subsidies from the NATA, athletic trainers and therapists from the US and Canada represented the WFATT in workshops and presentations in several countries, promoting and teaching the basic skills of taping, injury assessment, and emergency management of injuries.  Notably, those workshops were held in China, Ireland, and England.  In each of those countries athletic training and therapy has developed into a profession recognized by the appropriate government agency.  In each, educational programming has evolved into formal university curricula.


Dr. Cathy Ortega (NATA) was the President from 2005 – 2010.  In 2009, as part of the 2009 WFATT World Congress in San Antonio, the WFATT held an Education Summit.  The purpose was to allow organizations and institutions from around the world a chance to tell the group what their educational programs and practice looked like.  It came as a surprise that the programs seemed to be more alike than different. Out of that summit, came the notion that there might be some base set of “standards” that could be created that could be the beginning of a formalized common practice of athletic training/therapy globally.  Hence, the discussion began to create the WFATT Global Program Recognition initiative.


Dr. Larry Leverenz (NATA) assumed the role of President from 2010 – 2017.  During that time, and thanks to the efforts of  Dr. Greg Gardner The WFATT Global Program Recognition Standardswere developed and approved. The first Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) was signed by the Board of Certification (BOC) and the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA) in 2005. The MRA was renamed the Mutual Recognition Agreement in 2015 when a five-year tripartite agreement was signed between the BOC, the CATA and the Athletic Rehabilitation and Therapy Ireland (ARTI).


Dr. Glen Bergeron (CATA) was elected President in 2017 at the IXthWorld Congress in Madrid Spain. New By-laws establishing a new governance and membership structure and membership fees were approved at the Annual members meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in June 2017. 


It is the mandate of the WFATT to be the voice and face of Athletic Therapy and to be an advocate for the profession with other international organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, Federation International de Medicine Sportive commonly known as FIMS, the European Federation of Sport Medicine Associations, the Asian Federation of Sport Medicine and even the United Nations and UNICEF.


The World Congress has been a major focus of the international networking opportunities so appreciated by our members.  Past congresses included:


I - 2000 LA, US

II - 2003 Victoria, Canada

III - 2005 Edinburgh, Scotland

IV - 2007 Tokyo, Japan

V - 2009 San Antonio, US

VI - 2011 Banff, Canada

VII - 2014 St Louis, US

VIII - 2015 Dublin, Ireland

IX - 2017 Madrid, Spain

X - 2019 Tokyo, Japan


The WFATT continues to be the leader in the introduction of athletic training and therapy to the world. The organization continues to work with our current members and to mentor future members to promote the profession globally.  

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