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curriculum, injury, recognition, pressure, influences, autonomy


Context In their role as health care providers, student athletic therapists (SATs) are responsible for the prevention and management of injuries. To fully understand an injury, SATs require knowledge of contributing factors, including medications and their use and misuse. Opioid misuse by athletes to manage pain has been documented in the literature, highlighting the importance of SATs being able to recognize opioid use and misuse. Opioids are known to alleviate pain, to impair cognition, and to have addictive qualities which prevents appropriate assessment and management of injuries. The objective of this study was to understand SATs' knowledge of pain-relieving medication, particularly opioids. Data was collected through interviews and transcribed. Themes were developed using triangulation that reflected the data, Results, four themes were uncovered: (1) SATs had experienced both personal and professional use of opioids, which formulated their current knowledge; (2) SATs lacked appropriate knowledge of pain-relieving medications in general and of the potential consequences of their lack of knowledge; (3) SATs' knowledge stemmed from culture, social media, and news organizations; (4) SATs felt considerable pressure to provide correct information due to their autonomous role with a team. Conclusions, SATs lacked enough knowledge to be able to appropriately recognize and advise athletes on pain-relieving medications, particularly opioids. SATs formulated their knowledge and opinions from sources that were not rooted in research and as such may transfer incorrect information to their athletes. SATs stigmatized athletes who were using pain-relieving medication, which may factor into inappropriate decisions regarding an athlete's care. Finally, SATs carried a significant burden to share correct information with their athletes and did not refer to outside sources (eg, physicians) when they were unsure of the information they were sharing with their athletes.


Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies (FAHCS)

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Original Publication Citation

Vandertuin, J., Abdulla, D., Lowther, S. (2021) Student Athletic Therapists' Knowledge of Opioids and Other Pain-Relieving Medications. Athletic Training Education Journal, 16 (2), 112–119. doi:


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