An analysis of perceived and observed social support behaviors exhibited by athletic trainers during rehabilitation

Janet Lea Passman


The purposes of this study were (1) to examine the nature of social support being exhibited by athletic trainers with injured athletes during rehabilitation; (2) to determine the level of congruency, if any, between athletic trainers' and injured athletes' perceptions of social support provided during rehabilitation and the actual behaviors of athletic trainers exhibited during rehabilitation sessions and; (3) to determine if athletic trainers' perceptions of their social support efforts are congruent with the injured athlete's perceptions. Eight athletic trainers from NCAA Division I-A universities were videotaped twice individually with two injured athletes (n = 16) during two different rehabilitation settings. A total of 32 observations were made. Following data collection, the athletic trainers' attending and responding behaviors were systemically coded using the Interpersonal Skills Proficiency Scale (Baker, 1981). A descriptive analysis was conducted regarding the observed behaviors exhibited during the rehabilitative session using the Interpersonal Proficiency Scale designed by Baker (1981). At the end of the last observation session, each athletic trainer and athlete completed a modified version of the Social Support Survey (Richman, Rosenfield, & Hardy, 1993). The Modified Social Support Survey (Richman, Rosenfeld & Hardy, 1993) examined eight areas of perceived social support. The Pearson product moment correlations conducted on the Interpersonal Proficiency Scale scores and the Modified Social Support Survey scores for each subscale of social support revealed only two moderate significant correlations between observed and perceived social support behaviors between athletic trainers and athletes. A correlation was noted between the athletes' perception of task appreciation and personal assistance and the observed responding skills of the athletic trainer. Conversely, significant differences between reported perceptions received by athletes and what athletic trainers provided were noted in the t -tests analyses. Listening support and task appreciation demonstrated by the athletic trainers were incongruent with the perceptions of that received by the athletes. Injured athletes perceived listening support and task appreciation higher than the athletic trainers perceived themselves as providers of that support. Recommendations were made to further investigate psychosocial influences on the immune system in regards to an injury and the social support behaviors exhibited by the athletic trainer that would improve immunological functioning. Replication of this study was also recommended using a larger randomized sample with a specific injury (example: Grade II ankle sprain) through the rehabilitation process to the time the athlete is ready to return to play. Suggestions were made to design an instrument to measure specifically psychosocial interaction between the injured athlete and athletic trainers to be used to improve the quality of social support. Such investigation may be a useful tool to assist students in achieving competencies relating to psychosocial intervention and improve their social support behaviors.