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Considerations for planning a sports medicine facility

This is an excerpt from Management Strategies in Athletic Training, Fourth Edition, by Richard Ray and Jeff Konin.

Facility Planning

As athletic trainers become more involved in administrative leadership roles and have increasing potential for remuneration for services, the development of sports medicine programs may involve the planning of a facility. Planning a sports medicine facility is not a task for the novice and inexperienced athletic trainer. A number of elements must be considered during the earliest planning stages (Knowles 1997).


Location. Location. Location. As with any property, the geographical location of the property is integral to the usage and accessibility of the sports medicine program. On a college campus where open land space and available room space within an existing facility are rare commodities, options may be limited, and available locations may or may not be the most ideal choice. When building a private practice type of setting, one must consider a number of additional aspects. For example, with the building of any facility, one must adhere to particular zoning guidelines in order for business activities to occur. In a private practice setting, patients drive the business. Therefore, one should research the demographics of the area to ensure that potential client bases are large enough to support the business. Many other questions should also be considered:

  • Is the facility easily accessible by car?
  • Is the facility near other medical offices, making it convenient for patients to do business in one location?
  • Is the facility too close to a competitor that is providing the same type of services?
  • Is the facility located in an area of growth or in an area of relative decline?


Naming a business is perhaps one of the most important considerations for a private practice sports medicine setting. Ultimately, the name of the business should become recognizable to the general public so that anyone who hears the name immediately associates it with sports medicine services. There are a number of options when deciding on a name for a business. Regardless of what name is chosen, it must be registered with the appropriate state and federal corporation and tax entities to verify that no business with the same name already exists.

The following is a list of examples that Janet could consider for naming a sports medicine facility in Tampa, Florida:

Owner’s Name: Janet’s Sports Medicine Center

Location: Tampa Sports Medicine Center

Specialty Identification: Sports Injuries Specialists

Acronyms: Tampa Injury Specialists, TIS

Naming a business is always a risky proposition that should be carefully thought out before any formal operations are planned. The name that is eventually chosen will be branded in such a way that every association with the business will link back to the name. Each of the options just listed for naming a business has strengths and weaknesses. Using a person’s name may mean that developing a known identify around town will take some time. However, if the person already has a reputation for expertise in sports medicine, a business title inclusive of the person’s name will be beneficial. Use of a subspecialty term in the title to describe the type of expert services provided may draw the attention of clients with like injuries. However, it may give potential clients with other types of injuries the impression that the practice does not have expertise in other areas.

Business Structure

It is a common and recurring theme among health care providers that their services are a essentially a form of business. All business operations must operate under legal structure as typically defined by individual states. Legal structure is essentially a process that regulates the business operations; identifies who the business owner is; and ensures a method for tax collection, employee wages and protection, and fair practice acts. Though individuals may own their own business as a self-proprietor, many register their business as a corporate entity. As a self-proprietor, one assumes all risk and liability associated with the business, and personal assets can be used against any debt or claim against the individual and the business. With corporate status, an individual becomes a corporate officer, and any claim against the business does not affect her personal assets. Different types of corporations involve various leadership and ownership structures.

Taxes and Licenses

All businesses must register with their state for a business license. In some locations, city or county business licenses (or both) are also required. Part of business license registration is a description of the types of services one provides. Health care–related services often fall under “professional regulation.” Both state and federal registration of a business are required for the purpose of collecting governmental tax revenue. Various forms of taxes may need to be paid based on the type of tax structure, the number of employees one has hired, and the amount of claimed revenue versus expenses of the business operation. While many consider taxation an undue burden, incentives often are provided to small business owners and minority business owners to encourage business growth and operations.

Business Development Team

No athletic trainer should assume that he knows everything there is to know about starting a private sports medicine practice. Despite the fact that athletic trainers possess creative skills and a strong work ethic, some areas of business development require consultation with experts to ensure a better chance of success. Legal advice can be beneficial to the planning of a new facility with regard to real estate guidelines, business registrations, and contractual document preparation. Accountants can be of assistance in determining what type of tax structure a business should operate under. The process of actually identifying a good location to build a facility can benefit from the use of a real estate agent.


Athletic trainers are familiar with liability insurance as health care providers. Operating a facility also entails risk; thus risk management plans should include insurance coverage for the facility. This would include protection against any adverse conditions related to the property or equipment and even financial loss that could ultimately lead to business failure. If the business will employ staff, health insurance offerings will become an expense that must be planned for. Additionally, if third-party reimbursement will be sought for services, contractual relationships will need to be formed with insurance companies.


Athletic training students are commonly involved with a school project that requires planning an athletic training room. Planning any facility always involves carefully evaluating space for equipment usage and patient flow. Aside from equipment size and space requirements, electrical outlet and voltage requirements should be assessed. Whirlpools are commonly used in sports medicine facilities and require proper plumbing and electrical planning. Additionally, rest rooms, sinks, and other “wet” areas require appropriate plumbing and flooring.


Planning a facility is similar to building a house. All utilities should be considered: water, electric, phone, and any special requirements that may apply to equipment such as whirlpools and rehabilitative equipment. This is a critically important element of the planning process since most of the installation for utilities is done in the early stages of building before the walls and floors are completed. Thus, alterations after building completion tend to be cumbersome and expensive and require the removal of ceiling or flooring material.

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