How Interactive 3D Anatomy Experiences Improve AT Education

February 24, 2021

Athletic trainers face a serious task. Their goal is to find ways to help the human body reach its peak potential through specialized healthcare. Athletic trainers are responsible not only for the client’s health, but also their athletic careers. This is why athletic trainers are considered healthcare professionals, held to specific and precise standards by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). 

Six domains of clinical practice form the foundation of the entire athletic training field. The successful athletic trainer is able to responsibly perform in each of these domains:

  • Injury prevention
  • Clinical evaluation and diagnosis
  • Emergency care
  • Treatment, rehabilitation, and reconditioning
  • Organization and administration
  • Professional responsibility

A thorough knowledge of human anatomy underlies most of these domains. After all, it is both difficult and irresponsible to attempt to care for or treat athletes of any kind without first possessing a solid background in human autonomy; only the final two domains of organization and administration and professional responsibility are potentially manageable without a firm grasp of anatomy. As such, the study of human anatomy is a fundamental part of becoming a qualified athletic trainer.

Athletic training educators are responsible for helping their students develop a firm grasp of human anatomy. The process of teaching concepts in this field will vary among educators. However, a common thread in pedagogy is that variety helps students learn.

As with most other healthcare disciplines, educators in athletic training departments are encouraged to use a variety of teaching strategies and tools to help students of all learning styles understand the material at a deeper level. Throughout the athletic training literature, there are a host of useful educational tools that encourage learning, retention, critical thinking, and skill application among students. Of these, 3D interactive human anatomy models are a particularly helpful pedagogical tool. 

Interactive 3D anatomy content is a proven instrument in healthcare education, used to improve student learning outcomes. Whereas even the best physical models lead to issues such as clunkiness or crowding students, 3D models of the human body allow for intricate reproductions of the real thing and in-depth interactions that provide students with detailed information. Digital 3D anatomy models provide huge benefits for both students and educators that simply cannot be recreated in another medium. 

Interactive 3D Content Teaches Students Functional Anatomy

There are four primary ways to present anatomy:

  1. Flat 2D diagrams
  2. Physical 3D models
  3. Actual human bodies
  4. Interactive, digital 3D models

Each method of presentation provides unique benefits and shortcomings, but digital models stand out from the rest and are capable of demonstrating concepts of anatomy in ways that even actual human bodies cannot.

The big problem for non-digital resources is their lack of interactivity. Human bodies are not static. There are hundreds of systems at work in the body at any given moment. These systems are connected to each other on fundamental levels, and they affect one another constantly. Learning about each system in context by studying the body’s connections and constant interactions is a fundamental part of grasping human anatomy.

However, models that lack interactivity make it difficult to fully understand the body in its complexity:

  • 2D diagrams are useful for learning locations of particular body parts. However, at a fundamental level they lack the ability to show the moving parts and how they all truly connect. They are flat images and nothing more.
  • Physical 3D models are slightly better than 2D diagrams, but they have their shortcomings. While a physical model can demonstrate how individual systems work, they cannot reliably show the interplay between multiple systems. Furthermore, physical models are often extremely expensive and restricted to classroom use only. Students cannot use them to further their understanding of anatomy outside of class time — and might even struggle in class to get a good view of what they’re trying to learn about.
  • Live human bodies might seem like the best solution, but they’re even more restrictive than physical 3D models. While they are technically the most realistic tool possible, athletic training students rarely have the chance to examine them. Living volunteers do not allow for demonstrations of internal structures, which makes it difficult to learn about important concepts such as how the heart beats, how the lungs expand, or how muscles tense or loosen up. While educators can use other methods like dissections, these methods are limited to specific labs and times — plus once a change is made to the body, the change is permanent whether the demonstrated concept is learned or not. 

3D models do not suffer from any traditional shortcomings. Digital 3D models of the human body are:

  • Manipulatable in ways that even high-quality physical models are not
  • Infinitely reproducible, so every student can explore the model whenever and wherever they study
  • Customizable to focus on individual body systems or multiple system together

These digital anatomical tools are often more helpful than traditional materials when trying to get students to understand anatomy on a fundamental level.

As an example, our highly detailed 3D anatomy models let users examine the musculoskeletal system alongside rich explanatory text to fully understand the form and function of any particular structure of interest. Students can explore how muscles and bones throughout the body actually connect and move together on a finely detailed level. If they need more detail, they can access animations focused on particular muscle movements, interactive digital dissections, and other comprehensive digital learning tools.

Increase Students’ Understanding of Anatomy and Improve Athletic Trainer Performance

Knowledge of functional anatomy is especially necessary for athletic trainers. An athlete uses their entire body. Each system works with the next to promote optimal performance, and an injury to one system will have cascading effects throughout the body. That’s why athletic training education must cover a broad range of anatomical topics. 

To draw out the most from any athlete, athletic trainers must understand how the human body’s systems work and are interconnected. Students and trainers who truly grasp the fine details of human anatomy will have a robust foundation to help with:

  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Injury prevention
  • Immediate or emergency care
  • Physical rehabilitation

Athletic trainers specifically need to focus on clinical anatomy. As the athletic training profession is part of the broader healthcare field, athletic trainers must have the same clinical evaluation and treatment skills as any other health care professional. Without that knowledge base, a trainer cannot pinpoint specific injuries or damaged systems that cause their clients’ struggles; they fundamentally cannot complete their core responsibilities.

This is where interactive 3D anatomy comes into play. The tool is not just meant to help new students learn about body parts and how bodily systems work; 3D interactive human anatomy lets students develop and practice their clinical and diagnosing skills. Remember that athletic trainers work with real living, breathing people — not still models. The field is one of the most physically active in all of healthcare. As such, working with interactive models can make all the difference between rote memorization and actual understanding.

Teaching methods and tools that emulate the real world most closely should always be among the most prioritized pedagogical tools. Conventional tools for teaching anatomy provide helpful visual aids, but they don’t help students truly learn about the nuances of the human body. Digital human anatomy tools help students interact with simulated human bodies in realistic ways to not only learn about basic anatomy like body parts, but also understand more complicated concepts such as:

  • How the body moves and supports itself
  • How injuries affect the body
  • How organs work together in networks like the cardiovascular system

When it comes to learning about how the body works, studies have shown that students prefer 3D models over flat diagrams in every situation. This is the case in every health field, and athletic training education is no different. Using 3D interactive experiences greatly improves athletic training education and student outcomes. By providing comprehensiveness and flexibility, the tool deepens student understanding of the material and keeps students interested long after they would otherwise lose focus.

This is a key aspect of retaining athletic training students.  Anatomy and physiology courses have some of the highest dropout rates of any course, including other health science courses. It’s important to keep students interested, motivated, and focused in order to retain their attention and allow them to succeed in their chosen career path. 3D models are an effective way of making human anatomy intriguing and engaging without removing crucial educational elements.

Interactive 3D anatomy provides an educational playground, offering a level of visualization and understanding that physical models never could. Health care educators aiming to provide optimal learning environments for their students should implement interactive 3D experiences within their course structures. With them, students will be able to interact with course materials in a way that will prepare for their eventual interactions with real live human bodies. 

No matter how your students choose to use them, our 3D interactive experiences serve as an engaging learning tool. They will help your students expand their knowledge base and truly excel in the athletic training profession. The models we use are a medically accurate, virtual map of the human body. They’re composed of over 8,000 individually selectable anatomical structures, and an interactive toolkit to map and visualize data. You can rest easy knowing that your students have access to a huge collection of true-to-life models to study whenever they want. 

Interactive 3D Anatomy Models Provide Powerful Athletic Training Reviews

No matter what the subject, after a student first learns and jots down a new concept, the next step is to review their new knowledge. Studies have shown that reviewing study materials helps increase knowledge retention among students. In fact, regular, structured repetition of material is one of the best ways to learn new concepts and information. 

This means 3D digital models stand out even more as useful anatomy learning tools; digital models are the perfect review resources, as they are available to students at any time and from anywhere. Students can work with them whenever they study best — as opposed to only during specified lab times. If you want to improve your athletic training course’s effectiveness, there’s no easier way than to adopt and implement interactive 3D anatomy tools to help your students get the most out of their review sessions.

There are several ways to bolster your lectures and course materials with digital 3D models. With our state-of-the-art online resources, you can share and review advanced course lessons and help students more easily visualize human anatomy and physiology. This allows students to comfortably build their revision times around the tools they need to succeed.

A few examples of interactive 3D anatomy experiences to help students:

Master musculoskeletal anatomy with specially curated and interactive 3D views. 

Our 3D interactive models provide the perfect learning tools and visual experiences for helping students grasp the musculoskeletal system. Students can examine different joints and limbs to explore how they function individually or as a whole. This bolsters students’ understanding of functional and clinical anatomy at the most basic level. 

Everything athletes do comes down to the movement of bones and muscles in the body. Athletic training students who understand the musculoskeletal system will be better equipped to help their future clients achieve their goals.

Understand structure and function in depth with detailed explanatory text. 

Simply exploring physical models is helpful for hands-on learners. However, it’s important that all students understand the concepts behind why the body acts as it does. That’s where our detailed explanatory texts can help. Our models and animations come with thorough explanations of the systems at play. With clearly labeled anatomical parts and in-depth descriptions, students are sure to receive a well-rounded anatomy education.

Customize blood supply and innervation in any combination. 

Nerves and blood vessels are some of the most complicated structures in the body. Visually exploring these systems is helpful but can also overwhelm students. 

Our innervation and blood supply models are customizable to show exactly the information your students need. Whether you want to focus on specific parts or concentrate on broad pathways, the interactive 3D model is sure to help you and your students.

Visualize and understand muscle function with interactive, rotatable 3D animations of muscle movements. 

Muscles do not always move and function the way untrained folks might expect. Movement often follows unintuitive logic in many respects, and many movements are the result of multiple muscles working in concert to create complex motions with nothing more than simple contractions. Helping students connect the dots and visualize these processes is a primary goal of many anatomy classes on the athletic training track.

With our rotatable 3D models, students can examine any particular motion from every possible angle. They can focus on specific muscles or watch groups of muscles operate as a whole. The result is an intimate understanding of how and why certain motions are possible, as well as an understanding of what might cause dysfunction. This also allows for a smarter approach to the diagnostic aspects of athletic training.

Learn through action using interactive digital anatomy models

Athletic trainers are by definition hands-on in their jobs. Many students are drawn to the profession for that exact reason. Because of this, many, if not most, athletic training students prefer to learn about the body through action. 

Our interactive 3D anatomy models are top of the line, allowing students to explore parts of the body in detail. They allow students to work through a dissection at their own pace without having to wait or rush past their current level of understanding.

Identify pain points with trigger point images and 3D views. 

Pain is one of the clearest signals that something has gone wrong in the body. A fundamental part of athletic training is identifying the cause of pain in order to relieve it and rehabilitate the body. Athletes use their bodies in more intense ways than the average person, so they are more prone to serious pain and injury from aggravated trigger points.

Using traditional tools to identify and work with trigger points is often pointless. It takes an interactive, 3D view to develop a clear understanding of what pain points are and how to relieve them. 3D models help students locate pain points at different junctures and depths, understand their causes, and learn about how to help heal them. 


Human anatomy is incredibly complex, and traditional instruction methods do little to help simplify it. Modern anatomy instructors have a responsibility to clarify and teach a challenging and sometimes daunting subject. This is especially true for instructors in the athletic training field. After all, athletic trainers’ breadth and depth of anatomical knowledge is directly related to their success, more so than nearly any other field.

Using digital 3D models is one way that athletic training instructors can help their students learn. Interactive 3D anatomy serves as one of the many pedagogical tools that can be applied to help bolster athletic training and health science education. When combined with a proven high-quality curriculum and easy-to-understand explanations, 3D interactive anatomy models become a revolutionary tool to help your students succeed.

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