Context: Gymnastics is known for high-risk skills, intense competition settings, and a constant pressures to stay fit (White & Bennie, 2015). It is important for the Athletic Trainers’ (ATs) to take this into consideration when determining the best treatment plans for gymnasts who present with psychological symptoms (i.e., eating disorders, mental health disorders). Objective: To explore ATs’ experiences working with collegiate gymnasts and their perceptions on their role in treating athletes with psychological symptoms. Design: Mixed methods, non-experimental exploratory design. Participants: ATs who are active members of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. 64% of respondents were female, 30% male. 43% were between the ages of 20-30 years old. 28% had more than 14 years of experience as an AT. A majority (64%) reported having their master’s degree and 14% have a doctorate degree and 32% of respondents worked directly with a gymnastics team. Data Collection & Analysis: Online survey was created to gather demographic information on respondents as well as insights into experiences of working with gymnasts. Cronbach coefficient α and item analysis were used to explore internal consistency of two sections of the survey instrument. Independent-samples t-tests and One-way ANOVA were used to determine differences between respondents. Descriptive statistics and central tendency were calculated. Open-ended question responses were coded and analyzed into initial themes before being further analyzed. Results: Forty-seven surveys were completed. For the Confidence & Responsibility section of the survey instrument Cronbach coefficient was α = 0.79 with an item analysis that ranged from α = 0.75-0.82. For the Observed Psychological Symptoms section the Cronbach coefficient was α = 0.96 with an item analysis ranging from 0.961-0.966. Independent samples t-tests found that female participants detected depression due to weight gain, unwillingness to be patient in rehabilitation, and concerns about disappointing others more often in their athletes than male participants. One-way ANOVAs revealed that ATs with a clinical doctorate believed that it is their responsibility to recognize and treat athletes with mental health disorders were greater than 3.29 + 1.15 (F (3.31) = 3.37, p=0.028). They also reported higher confidence levels in approaching athletes with eating disorders compared to 4.03 + 0.66 (F (3.31) =3.96, p=0.015). ATs emphasized the “team approach” when treating athletes with mental health disorders. ATs believe that it is their responsibility to recognize the signs and symptoms associated with various psychological disorders and then refer athletes to an expert in the field to provide the most effective care. Conclusion: Education should prepare ATs to detect symptoms of a psychological disorders and provide informational and social support to athletes. Results from this study stress the need for written referral protocols to sport psychologists, dieticians and other specialists to provide athletes with holistic care.
McDavitt, Allison, "Psychological Aspects of Gymnastics as Perceived by Athletic Trainers" (2016). Masters of Education in Human Movement Sport and Leisure Studies Graduate Projects. 29.