Beyond Xs and Os: The Role of an Athletic Trainer in Supporting Disordered Eating in College Athletes

Athletic Trainer and Eating Disorder


  • Matt Moore Ball State University
  • Jerry Reynolds Ball State University
  • Alex Black University of Michigan
  • Kristin Trainor Ball State University
  • Stephen Young Ball State University



eating disorders, sport social work, athletic training, qualitative research


One subset of the college population that is at-risk of developing an eating disorder or signs of disordered eating are college athletes. College athletes face both internal and external pressures to remain fit. Of particular importance for this study is the role of the athletic trainer (ATs) in helping college athletes with a diagnosed eating disorder or patterns of disordered eating. This study followed a logical, systematic, and multiphase phenomenological approach to capturing reflections of athletic trainers’ (n = 7) subjective experiences related to managing student-athletes who have a diagnosed eating disorder. Using an open-ended interview guide, athletic trainers participated in an intensive interview with one of the researchers. Researchers categorized statements into one of three themes: (1) AT and college athlete relationship, (2) barriers to care, and (3) opportunities for improvement. These results provide insight concerning the intersection of ATs and their role in addressing eating disorders with college athletes. ATs play an important role in providing both support to aid physical recovery from ailments and injuries and also serve as a source of psychosocial referral and support.


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