Purpose: Misuse of pain-relieving medications (PRMs), including opioids, is high among injured athletes. Athletes are increasingly relying on PRMs and as a result, it is likely that student athletic therapists (SATs) have managed athletes who have misused PRMs and may have potentially missed important symptoms placing athletes in harm. While dispensing PRMs is not within the scope of practice of the SAT, recognition and referral are. Previous research has found that SATs feel ill prepared to recognize PRM misuse and feel tremendous pressure to provide correct health information to the athlete. The purpose of this study was to expand on previous pilot work and uncover SATs knowledge on PRMs nationally. Method: A survey was sent to SATs currently studying in accredited Athletic Therapy programs and recent graduates (AATP). Results: A total of 57 surveys were completed. Results indicated that SATs believed they lacked sufficient knowledge related to PRMs and opioids however their personal knowledge of PRMs and opioids empowered them to provide athlete education on such medications. Over half of the SATs indicated that they have been approached by athletes and coaches to provide PRMs. SATs reported experiencing considerable pressure to provide athletes with correct information and showed stigma towards athletes misusing opioids. Conclusions: Although SATs reported the ability to recognize an athlete misusing opioids, they were unsure of how to make a quick decision when faced with potential opioid misuse situations. Recommendations: We recommend that curriculum, as well as clinical educators, address the pressure SATs experience and reinforce education to help identify and manage athletes who potentially misuse PRMs. Our study provides insight into the current level of knowledge of Canadian SATs regarding PRMs and opioids to help educators and others who work with SATs in a field setting.

Author Bio(s)

Jacqueline Vandertuin, MSc, CAT(C), is a professor at Sheridan College in Brampton ON, Canada in the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies. She is also a certified Athletic Therapist.

Dalya Abdulla, PhD, is a professor at Sheridan College in Brampton, ON, Canada in the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies. She is also a pharmacologist.

Stephanie Lowther, MSc, CAT(C), is a doctoral student and certified Athletic Therapist.

Joshua Collins, BAHSc Athletic Therapy (Hons), CAT(C), is a certified Athletic Therapist with the Edmonton Elks football team.




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