Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Studies, Socio-historical Studies



Major Advisor

Shelley M. Lucas, Ph.D.


INTRODUCTION: Athletes who participate in sport experience the risk of pain and injury. In today’s sports culture, playing with pain and injury has been normalized, which can leave athletes with severe chronic injury, incessant pain, and potential irreversible damage. Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) uphold a professional responsibility to manage injuries and care for the health of athletes under their attention. According to Nixon (1992), ATCs are members of a social network found in sport, called a “sportsnet.” Nixon has blamed sportsnet members, including ATCs, for the normalization of injury in sport - a charge that contradicts ATCs’ standards of practice and creates ethical concern within the profession. Although previous research has evaluated how athletic training students, Canadian sports medicine clinicians, and doctors and physiotherapists from the United Kingdom affect and are affected by the culture of risk, pain, and injury in sport, little research has focused upon ATCs working within intercollegiate sports in the United States. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the current perceptions of pain, risk, and injury held by ATCs and to discover how those perceptions affect ATCs’ decisions regarding injuries. PARTICIPANTS: Participants included 80 Board of Certification certified athletic trainers with at least five years of working experience in a NCAA Division I athletic department. METHOD: Participants took an anonymous open-ended questionnaire on Qualtrics, an online survey software. DATA ANALYSIS: Data was highlighted and sorted based upon common themes that addressed perceptions and influence of the culture of risk, pain, and injury in sport on ATCs. RESULTS: Athletic trainers believed that athletes should expect playing with pain and injury. Over half (52.46%) of athletic trainers reported experiencing sportsnet pressure from coaches when managing athlete pain and injury. When making return-to-play decisions, time of the sports season was the biggest situational factor that affected an athletic trainer’s decision. Despite expecting pain and injury, athletic trainers expressed the importance of preventing additional harm and maintaining patient health and safety. CONCLUSION: The results of this study contribute to a further understanding of the culture of risk, pain, and injury in sport, the profession of athletic training, and the nature of NCAA Division I collegiate athletic training environments.