Influencing Factors and Rationale for the Use of Athletic Trainers in Secondary School Athletic Programs

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Purpose: Secondary school student-athletes often lack appropriate medical care during school sponsored sport participation. Athletic trainers (ATs) are qualified healthcare professionals that can fill this need. Barriers to hiring ATs have been identified, however the rationale regarding the use of ATs in schools remains unexplored. Understanding this phenomenon has the potential to guide strategies to improve access to ATs, thus improving athlete safety. Our objective was to explore high school athletic directors’ perceptions of the roles and services provided by ATs working in the secondary school setting and to understand the needs of the athletic program and school regarding the use of athletic training services.

Methods: Following a qualitative methodology, ten high school athletic directors employed by schools with full-time ATs completed telephone interviews. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data analysis followed the consensual qualitative research (CQR) approach.

Results: Procurement of athletic training positions was influenced by various personnel, community organizations, and policy. Rationale for requiring ATs within athletic programs included specialized training by ATs which was perceived to enhance safety and decrease liability. Participants viewed ATs as ideal athletic healthcare providers. Coaches were not supported as appropriate staff to fulfill this role. Financial and logistical challenges to the initiation and maintenance of AT positions were also discussed. Conclusions: The decision to utilize ATs is complex and influenced by multiple factors. Applications in Sport: Consideration of these factors may improve the success of athletic director’s efforts to initiate or maintain athletic training positions to support the safety and well-being of student-athletes within secondary school athletic programs.


The Sport Journal


United States Sports Academy