Athletic trainers' skills in identifying and managing athletes experiencing psychological distress

Marc L. Cormier, Sam J. Zizzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Context: Athletic trainers (ATs) commonly use psychological skills during sport rehabilitation. However, little is known about their ability to accurately implement these skills. Objective: To assess ATs' skills in identifying psychological symptoms, selecting appropriate strategies, and making referral decisions for athletes experiencing various degrees of psychological distress. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Participants were recruited using the National Athletic Trainers' Association professional member database. Patients or Other Participants: Of the 2998 ATs who were selected randomly, 494 (16.5%) partially completed the questionnaire and 326 (10.9%) completed the entire survey (mean age = 34.7 ± 10.8 years, mean years of experience = 11.3 ± 9.9). Main Outcome Measure(s): Using the Web-based questionnaire created for this study, we collected ATs' demographic information and assessed their perceptions about responsibilities as ATs, psychosocial competencies, training in sport psychology, and referral behaviors. Additionally, respondents were asked to identify symptoms, match psychological strategies (eg, goal setting, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation), and make referral decisions for athletes in 3 case vignettes. Results: The ATs demonstrated high accuracy in identifying symptoms and making referral decisions but struggled in selecting appropriate psychosocial strategies for athletes. Stepwise regression analyses revealed that ATs who had had specific coursework in sport psychology were able to more accurately identify symptoms (t = 3.01, P < .01), and those ATs with more experience reported lower accuracy scores for their intended course of action (t = -2.25, P < .05). Conclusions: Our analogue research design provided new insights into ATs' knowledge and use of sport psychology in practice. The results highlighted the importance of coursework focusing on applied areas of sport psychology in the training of ATs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1267-1276
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© by the National Athletic Trainers' Association, Inc.


  • Assessment
  • Njury psychology
  • Psychosocial strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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