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Journal Article


J. Athl. Train. 2020; ePub(ePub): ePub.


Division of Sports Medicine, Sports Concussion Clinic, Boston Children's Hospital, MA. Dr Baugh is now at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Colorado, Aurora.


(Copyright © 2020, National Athletic Trainers' Association (USA))






CONTEXT: The ratio of clinicians to patients has been associated with health outcomes in many medical contexts but has not been explored in collegiate sports medicine. The relationship between administrative and financial oversight models and staffing is also unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To (1) evaluate staffing patterns in National Collegiate Athletic Association sports medicine programs and (2) investigate whether staffing was associated with the division of competition, Power 5 conference status, administrative reporting structure (medical or athletic department), or financial structure (medical or athletic department).

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING: Collegiate sports medicine programs. PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Representatives of 325 universities. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): A telephone survey was conducted during June and July 2015. Participants were asked questions regarding the presence and full-time equivalence of the health care providers on their sports medicine staff. The number of athletes per athletic trainer was determined.

RESULTS: Responding sports medicine programs had 0.5 to 20 full-time equivalent staff athletic trainers (median = 4). Staff athletic trainers at participating schools cared for 21 to 525 athletes per clinician (median = 100). Both administrative and financial oversight from a medical department versus the athletics department was associated with improved staffing across multiple metrics. Staffing levels were associated with the division of competition; athletic trainers at Division I schools cared for fewer athletes than athletic trainers at Division II or III schools, on average. The support of graduate assistant and certified intern athletic trainers varied across the sample as did the contributions of nonphysician, nonathletic trainer health care providers.

CONCLUSIONS: In many health care settings, clinician:patient ratios are associated with patient health outcomes. We found systematic variations in clinician:patient ratios across National Collegiate Athletic Association divisions of competition and across medical versus athletics organizational models, raising the possibility that athletes' health outcomes vary across these contexts. Future researchers should evaluate the relationships between clinician-patient ratios and athletes' access to care, care provision, health care costs, health outcomes, and clinician job satisfaction.

Language: en


full-time equivalent; health policy; medical autonomy; medical coverage; work-life balance


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