Burnout and Caffeine Use in Collegiate Athletic Trainers

What can we learn from burnout in athletic trainers?

It feels like everyone is emotionally exhausted these days. That’s why this 2020 research article, “Burnout and Substance Use in Athletic Trainers” really caught my attention. In this condensed episode, I’ll explain what they found and how it can help ANYONE struggling with burnout.

  • First, how “burnout” is defined and measured.
  • Second, how many trainers struggle with burnout, and how this compares to burnout in nurses.
  • Finally, how to reduce burnout – what works, and what doesn’t.
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Podcast Show Notes and Additional Graphics

definition of burnout from paper on burnout in athletic trainers

What do we mean by "burnout"?

Burnout isn’t the same as stress. In fact, burnout has three key characteristics: emotional exhaustion, a decreased sense of self-worth, and apathy or cynicism.

In this study, athletic trainers answered questions about their work-family conflict, workload, and more. Then, their answers were calculated to reveal their level of burnout. This data was compared to similar research studies with nurses and physicians. In short, the study authors wanted to see if the “off-season” of collegiate sports helped trainers beat burnout.

It did not.

How many collegiate athletic trainers struggle with burnout?

High levels of emotional exhaustion were reported by:

  • 31% of physicians
  • 36% of nurses
  • 39% of collegiate athletic trainers

In short, this study revealed collegiate athletic trainers struggle with burnout just as much as nurses and physicians.

39% of athletic trainers report emotional exhaustion, 20% use energy drinks to cope
personal accomplishment and social support can help reduce burnout in athletic trainers

Beating Burnout - what works and what doesn't?

In this study, 22% of athletic trainers who were struggling with burnout said they use energy drinks to cope.

However, caffeine can’t cure emotional exhaustion.

On the contrary, caffeine can actually increase anxiety and sleep deprivation.

(This is why I teach people how to consume caffeine strategically meaning more benefits, fewer side-effects)

As it turns out, there are two more effective ways to combat emotional exhaustion. In this study, and others like it, social support and personal accomplishment are “negatively associated” with burnout.

In other words, people report lower burnout scores when they feel like they have support from friends, family, coworkers, or even from a mental health professional.

They also report lower burnout scores when they have a recurring sense of personal achievement. This is why setting short, medium, and long-term goals is so important. Having just the long-term goals can feel daunting. And only setting short-term goals isn’t enough to sustain you. You need all three, according to Dr. Loretta Breuning, author of “Habits of a Happy Brain”.


Burnout and Substance Use in Collegiate Athletic Trainers https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32396471/

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