DOI: 10.1177/20597002231198616 ISSN:

A mixed methods investigation into athletic trainer and dietitian's nutrition practices for sport-related concussion patients

Michelle L Weber Rawlins, Tamara C Valovich McLeod
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science


Nutrients may have implications following concussion, such as inflammation reduction or neuroprotection. The purpose of this study was to describe nutrition practices of athletic trainers (AT) and dietitians for patients regarding sport-related concussion, with respect to prevention, recommendations, and barriers to implementation.


Due to the descriptive nature of this study, hypotheses were not warranted.

Study Design

Mixed methods.

Level of Evidence

Level 3.


A survey was distributed through professional memberships and included multiple-choice and open-ended items about nutritional practices regarding concussions. Participants included 1465 ATs and 51 dietitians accessing the survey (AT: age = 35.7 ± 11.4 years, females = 43.1%; dietitians: age = 31.8 ± 8.17 years, females = 45.1%). Open-ended survey responses regarding nutritional practices for concussion prevention, recommendations, and changes following concussion were analyzed by identifying key words or repeating phrases, theme development and categories into an initial codebook, using the codebook on responses, and coding all responses with the finalized codebook. Barriers to implementation was analyzed with descriptive statistics.


Themes were identified for prevention strategies, and recommendations and changes following concussion. For concussion prevention, ATs noted overall health, specific target nutrients, barriers and limited research support, while dietitians identified overall health, specific target nutrients, recommendations/guidelines as themes. Post-injury themes for patient recommendations and changes were noted as overall health, specific target nutrients, resources, interprofessional collaboration by ATs, whereas dietitians identified overall health, specific target nutrients, interprofessional collaboration. ATs and dietitians noted numerous barriers including the lack of clinician knowledge and athlete compliance.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

ATs and dietitians are utilizing nutritional practices regarding concussion in numerous ways by focusing on use for whole body, brain health and specific targets such as omega fatty acids, hydration, micronutrients/supplements, and macronutrients. With these findings and the barriers listed by respondents, we can use this information to design focused research to influence evidence-based nutritional practices and concussion.

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