Athletic Trainers’ Perceptions and Experiences of Withholding Athletes from Participation

Research Team Members: Melissa Kay, Johna Register-Mihalik, JD DeFreese, Destinee Grove, Reagan Page

con_robWhy did you do this study?

Athletic trainers frequently have to make quick decisions that affect the well-being of an athlete. Despite levels of education being high and athletic trainers being prepared, at least in theory, to make those decision-making around withholding athletes is complex and may be influenced by a variety of factors.

Previous work has shown that there is a link between feelings of pressure to prematurely return to the playing field from a concussion for athletes. However, no one has ever attempted to link these concepts of pressure to the athletic trainer and the impact this experience has on the ability to make appropriate decisions to withhold an athlete from participation.

The purpose of our study was to explore athletic trainers’ perceptions and experiences of withholding athletes from play including the identification of factors which may impact the ability to make appropriate decisions, such as the time of year, particular sport, years of experience as an athletic trainer, and many more. We plan to continue this area of research utilizing a national survey of athletic trainers, inclusive of information gained form this qualitative study.

What did you do and what did you find in this study?

We conducted phone interviews with 10 athletic trainers from a variety of backgrounds across the country. The interview consisted of 12 semi-structured questions allowing for the researcher conducting the interview to clarify participant responses. Our preliminary analyses suggest that the collaborative relationship between the athletic trainer and all others involved (i.e. coaches, sports medicine team members, athletes, and/or parents) is vital to the success of decision-making in difficult situations. Participants also concluded that the time of year, the sport played, the type of injury, and other external factors affected their ability to make appropriate decisions. All of our participants felt that making the actual decision was the easy part, however, communicating that decision with all necessary parties was where the most difficulty was expressed.

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How do these findings impact the public?

These findings suggest that efforts need to be made to improve the establishment of collaborative relationships in the sport environment and culture. Future research is needed to determine which of these relationships in the most predictive in terms of negatively impacting decision-making.

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