Perceptions of Athletic Trainers as a Source of Nutritional Information among Collegiate Athletes: A Mixed-methods Approach

Rebecca A. Schlaff, Valerie J. Adams, Daniel J. Crusoe, Jeremy L. Knous, Meghan Baruth


Background: Athletes obtain nutrition information from a number of sources, with some being more accurate than others.  Little is known about athletes’ perceptions of utilizing Certified Athletic Trainers (ATs) as a primary source of information. Objective: We sought to 1) examine the primary sources of nutrition information among a group of United States collegiate athletes and 2) understand athletes’ perceptions regarding utilization of their ATs as primary sources of nutrition information. Methods: Participants (Division II university athletes) completed an online questionnaire (n=155;n=58 males, n=97 females) assessing demographic information and ranked primary sources of nutrition information, and participated in focus groups (n=26;n=18 women, n=8 men) to better understand barriers/perceptions for using their ATs for nutrition information. Mean+SD ranking were calculated for all sources. Mann Whitney-U analyses were used to identify differences in rank order nutrition sources between genders and years of collegiate experience. Semi-structured focus groups were transcribed, coded, and themes were identified regarding barriers to utilizing ATs for nutrition-related information. Results: Parents (3.54±2.38) and the internet (3.69±2.29) had the highest mean ranks.  ATs were least often ranked as the number one nutrition source (7.5%), among all sources provided.  Barriers to utilizing ATs for nutritional information included discomfort, nutrition information not being within the scope of practice, lack of knowledge, the athletic trainer not caring, and lack of time. Conclusions: Participants reported utilizing ATs less than previous research indicates. Continuing education may be needed to improve the efficacy of ATs in addressing nutritional issues and being seen as a credible and accessible source.

Keywords: Diet, Athlete perceptions, Barriers

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