Athletic Trainers Handle Stress and Burnout

By Erin Chapman, MS, LAT, ATC

As Athletic Trainers (ATs), we spend 95% of our time worrying about the health and well-being of family members, friends and patients.  Little time is focused on our own mental and physical health.  I believe the characteristic of selflessness is what makes an AT intuitive and compassionate during a difficult time in a patient’s life, but it can also wear on the clinician’s emotional state.  Emotions do not only affect our mental health but also numerous functions of the body including the digestive, immune, respiratory and/or cardiovascular systems.  While many different stressors or factors can disrupt emotional health, the unique responsibilities – both professional and personal – of an Athletic Trainer are multifaceted, making it difficult to identify the source of one’s emotional change.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and other outlets have established research to identify the causes of stress and burnout within the athletic training profession.

So, how are clinicians handling or managing stress and burnout?

Athletic Trainers often state that time, money and energy are limitations; therefore, it is imperative we find ways to deal with these noted shortcomings.  I was previously one of those ATs who did not take care of my mental well-being and felt as though I did not have the tools to tackle it myself.

During my first semester in a doctorate program, I was introduced to the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  Through the implementation of the EFT, I learned about the stressors and emotions affecting both my professional and personal life.  The EFT is a treatment paradigm based upon psychological acupressure.  The technique uses tapping of the fingers to input kinetic energy onto specific energy meridians while thinking about the specific stressor or problem during the restating of positive affirmations.

While this is just one treatment paradigm for mental well-being and may not be your choice of intervention, there are similar paradigms that might be just as effective.  Identifying stressors or problems that are consuming your thoughts and emotions can help guide treatment interventions.  Listed here are other treatment paradigms: Sensory Flow, Traumatic Release Exercises (TRE), Qi-gong, yoga, Reflexercise and Reiki. Determining which technique is appropriate for you is the first step that allows you, as an AT practitioner, to help yourself prior to helping others.


Church, D. The treatment of combat trauma in veterans using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques): A pilot protocol. Traumatology [serial online]. March 2010;16(1):55-65. Available from: PsycARTICLES, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 1, 2015


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