Background: The importance of nutrition on athletic performance is evident. Athletic trainers (ATs), nutritionists/RDs, strength and conditioning specialists (SCSs), and other athletic department personnel may be available to student-athletes and can be solicited for nutrition advice. Multiple studies have found that although some universities have a sports nutritionist on staff, student-athletes approached an AT most often for nutrition advice rather than an SCS, nutritionist or other person. ATs have the necessary education to provide proper nutrition information to student-athletes; however, it is not the primary role of an AT.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the quantity, quality and variety of nutrition support offered to Division I student-athletes who participate in football. Additionally, the purpose was to gain the perspective of the AT with regard to their role in educating football players on basic nutrition principles.

Design: Cross sectional.

Setting: Participants completed a web-based questionnaire.

Patients or Other Participants: 253 Division I institutions were identified; from those institutions 120 head ATs were randomly chosen to receive the questionnaire. Responses from 30 (25%) head ATs (Football Bowl Subdivision 53.6%; Football Championship Subdivision 46.4%) were analyzed.

Results: A majority (69%, n=20) of the institutions provided access to a nutritionist/RD. When asked who they believed student-athletes would solicit nutritional advice from first, respondents ranked their answers as follows: AT (n=11, 36.7%), SCS (n=10, 33.3%), nutritionist/RD (n=7, 23.3%), and coach (n=2, 6.7%). However, in the Likert scale questions, participants felt between neutral and slight agreement regarding their own responsibility, or that overall, ATs should feel responsible to teach nutrition or promote proper eating habits. In another question, participants were asked who is responsible for educating football players about nutrition at their institution and were able to select more than one response. Participants felt that all three professionals had a fairly high level of responsibility (SCS n=26, 86.7%; AT n=23, 76.7%; nutritionist/RD n=21, 70%). ATs ranked their perception of who helped with management of specific medical issues as follows: AT (n=26, 86.7%), nutritionist/RD (n=21, 70%), physician (n=18, 60%), and SCS (n=3, 10%). FBS institutions seem to provide more nutrition services compared to FCS institutions; 73.7% of FBS institutions are providing access to a nutritionist/RD and whereas only 26.5% of FCS institution provide this service.

Conclusions: ATs from our study strongly agreed that nutrition plays an important role in performance. As shown in previous studies, ATs and SCSs were found to be the primary sources of nutrition information for student-athletes in Division I settings. This study gathered the AT’s perspective and perceived roles regarding where student-athletes receive nutrition information from most often. The ATs in this study confirmed that they felt the ATs and SCSs were primarily approached for nutrition advice. Although these ATs responded that the SCSs, ATs, and nutritionist/RDs were all responsible to educate football players at their institutions, the ATs answers were conflicting when they said that they did not feel the ATs role should be responsible for educating football players on nutrition and performance. Because ATs did perceive themselves as qualified, it is suggested that they may feel another professional of the sports medicine team is more appropriate to fill this role. A sports medicine team consisting of ATs, SCSs, nutritionists/RDs and physicians should work together to promote the benefits of nutrition and provide optimal services within their professional scope of their practice. In the absence of one or more professional, effective knowledge and communication must be maintained to assure that the roles of nutrition services are still provided to football players.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Schellhase, Kristen C.


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Health and Public Affairs


Health Professions

Degree Program

Athletic Training


Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date

May 2016