College athletic trainers and nutrition education: a vital link for athletes
Swanton, Deborah Lynne
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Athletes are striving to achieve an edge over their opponents. Instead of focusing on dietary practices to enhance their performance, athletes often resort to supplements. Creatine is one of the most common supplements used by athletes. Inconsistencies exist in the literature regarding recommended dosage, benefits, and short and long-term health consequences of creatine supplementation. In addition, athletes are bombarded with inaccurate information concerning proper nutritional practices. Athletic trainers are educated in nutrition and are expected to play a role in educating athletes regarding their dietary habits. The purpose of this study was to investigate the methods athletic trainers use to educate athletes in nutrition, to determine what methods they believe are most effective, and to reveal athletic trainers' attitudes and beliefs regarding creatine supplementation. The subjects consisted of athletic trainers from 52 out of 118 colleges and universities in New England for a 44% institutional return rate. Eighty-one athletic trainers participated in the study. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected through a survey and interviews. Athletic directors provided additional information to corroborate athletic trainers' responses. Athletic directors from 66 schools out of 118 in New England responded to a questionnaire for a 56% return rate. Findings indicate athletic trainers believe they are responsible for nutrition education and they have the ability to influence athletes. The most used educational methods identified were individual meetings, handouts, and team meetings. Athletic trainers rated individual meetings, guest speakers, and lectures by the athletic training staff as the most effective educational strategies. Findings suggest educational efforts are minimal and inconsistent within and between institutions. Athletic trainers believe they are ineffective and inadequate in educating athletes. The primary reasons cited for their ineffectiveness are "time" and "lack of staff." Other major findings indicate athletic trainers do not support the use of creatine by athletes and are in support of the NCAA ban on creatine distribution by member institutions. Qualitative analysis exposed a number of issues surrounding creatine supplement use by athletes and the NCAA ban on creatine distribution.
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