Secondary School Athletic Coaches' Perceptions and Knowledge of the Athletic Training Profession

J Athl Train. 2022 Apr 5. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-0369.21. Online ahead of print.


Context: Coaches play a role in streamlining care, especially by directing student-athletes in need of further medical attention to the athletic trainer (AT). The AT-coach relationship holds great potential for incorporating collaborative care, yet little is known about coaches' perceptions and knowledge of ATs.

Objective: To investigate coaches' perceptions of athletic training and their knowledge regarding the roles and responsibilities of ATs in secondary schools.

Design: Concurrent mixed methods.

Setting: Cross-sectional online questionnaire.

Patients or other participants: Secondary school athletic coaches from ten sports with the highest participation rates from 2017-2018 (n=1,097). A majority of respondents were male (n=795, 72.4%), and their average age was 44.7±11.4 years.

Intervention(s): Web-based questionnaire containing demographics, quantitative measures assessing coaches' knowledge and perceived value of ATs, as well as open-ended questions.

Main outcome measure(s): Descriptive statistics summarize demographic data. Count and percent response for quantitative measures are reported. Open-ended responses were analyzed using the general inductive approach.

Results: Approximately 93% of respondents considered an AT a trusted source of medical information and key member of the sports medicine team. A majority selected "Injury Prevention" (98.9%), "First Aid/Wound Care" (97%), "Therapeutic Interventions" (89.9%), and "Emergency Care" (85.8%) as skills ATs are qualified to perform. Forty-six percent of respondents were willing to coach without an AT employed. Coaches trusted ATs as part of the "athletic team" and as a gatekeeper, referring student-athletes for advanced care when warranted. Regarding the AT role, coaches emphasized treatment of minor injuries and the idea of "coverage versus care".

Conclusions: Secondary school coaches valued the athletic training profession and were knowledgeable regarding various roles and responsibilities ATs frequently perform. However, they may view ATs as luxuries instead of necessities, evidenced by the fact that just under half of responding coaches were willing to coach without an AT employed at the school.

Keywords: high school; medical professional; survey research.