Timely Topic Discusses Nutrition

August 15, 2022 by Lydia Hicks

NATA will host its next Timely Topics Series event titled, “The AT and Nutrition,” at noon CDT Aug. 19.

The event will offer athletic trainers the opportunity to connect with industry thought leaders to discuss trends in performance nutrition, as athletes return to fall activities.

Mary McLendon, MS, LAT, ATC, NATA liaison to the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA), will moderate the discussion. Northwestern University Performance Nutrition Program Director Katie Knappenberger, MS, CSSD, ATC, will present and provide comprehensive links to help attendees navigate quick access to quality resources for performance nutrition.

“I am excited about the event,” Knappenberger said. “I am excited that NATA sees this as valuable. I think the timing is absolutely perfect. I think that there’s going to be some things that [athletic trainers] can walk away with immediately into the athletic training clinics and be able to use.”

Although the discussion will begin with the collegiate setting, the topic will also educate athletic trainers in multiple settings, Knappenberger said.

“I definitely see applications for any ATs that are seeing patients for the first time,” she said. “In any setting, where you need to do some nutritional screening, it would be helpful information for them as well.”

Knappenberger said that the event will focus on three pertinent issues: dietary supplement review, relative energy deficiency and eating disorder screening and food insecurity.

“The ones that pose the biggest risk to student athlete or athlete health and performance would probably be dietary supplements,” she said. “Any dietary supplements that the athlete is taking should be disclosed to the sports medicine staff. So, making sure the athletic trainer feels comfortable collecting that information and giving recommendations out is an area that is constantly evolving.

“There are new supplements coming out all the time, so I think that’s the area to be really focused on.”

Knappenberger said the “The AT and Nutrition” is an opportune discussion for attendees as it will also examine screening for relative energy deficiency syndrome and eating disorders. As athletic trainers treat patients, she said it’s important for them to acknowledge that eating disorders can pose tremendous risks to athletes’ health and performance.

Aligning with the event’s topic, the discussion will help equip athletic trainers to feel comfortable screening for these warning signs and if they are identified, develop the best next steps for their patients, she said.

“I think that those skills are so incredibly important for making it easier on the athletic trainer versus identifying things once the wheels are already fall off,” Knappenberger said. “Nobody is expecting the athletic trainers to take on everything about these issues all by themselves. So, making sure that they feel supported and that they have somewhere to go if they need to refer a patient or co-treat with another professional, I think, will bolster the profession as well, which will ultimately impact the athletes’ health in a really positive way.”

Regarding food insecurity, Knappenberger said it’s essential to ensure that athletic trainers feel comfortable screening for food insecurity if their institutions aren’t already doing so.

“If our athletes can’t get the food they need in order to fuel and in order to heal, that’s going to have a huge detriment on health,” she said.

McLendon, who works as the executive senior associate athletic director of sports medicine and performance at Mississippi State University, said that it is important for athletic trainers to emphasize adequate nutrition among their athletes, as it plays a pivotal role in their health and performance.

“You can do as much as you want on the court, on the field, in the weight room, but if you are not fueling properly, you are missing something there,” she said. “I think that the athletes that we are working with in any setting are really starting to realize that that might be the missing piece for them.”

Registration for the NATA Timely Topics Series is free for NATA members and $45 per event for nonmembers. Register now to attend this opportunity to better navigate nutritional issues in different settings with the help of expert thought leaders.