AAOS Now

Published 11/30/2019

Academy Endorses The Forum’s Position Statement on Sexual Abuse in Sports

The AAOS Board of Directors acted on the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board’s recommendation and recently endorsed The Forum’s position statement titled, “Sexual Abuse/Harassment: Creating a Safe Environment for Competitive Athletes.” The statement also was endorsed by the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society.

Sexual Abuse/Harassment: Creating a Safe Environment for Competitive Athletes

Competitive athletes dedicate their time, resources, and well-being to sport. The hierarchical structure in which they train and compete makes them vulnerable to abuse. Sexual harassment and abuse are violations of human rights that damage individuals and organizations. These behaviors also violate federal law, state law, and guiding instructions from multiple organizations. Athletes are entitled to train, compete, and receive medical care in an environment that is free from sexual harassment and abuse. The medical team is often the first line of care for an athlete suffering physical, mental, or emotional stress. Recent notorious cases of sexual abuse by sports medicine physicians are egregious examples of the ultimate breach in trust between an athlete and the team physician. Sports medicine physicians should be responsible for identifying and preventing sexual harassment and abuse and for promoting and maintaining a culture of dignity, respect, and safety within the sport community and in the training room.

Purpose: To create a culture of responsiveness and to foster a safe environment in which athletes may thrive, The Forum recommends the following principles to be adopted as a standard for sports medicine providers.

  1. The sports medicine practitioner should recognize potential sexual abuse/harassment and provide an immediate and appropriate response.
  2. The athletic training room should provide a safe haven for athletes, where discriminatory behavior and sexual abuse/harassment are not tolerated and where athlete confidentiality is respected.
  3. A policy for reporting suspected or alleged sexual abuse/harassment should be clearly posted in every athletic training room. This policy must include the reporting of suspected or alleged criminal behavior to a law enforcement agency and provisions to protect athlete safety and confidentiality.
  4. Annual education should be mandated for all parties involved in athlete management, including medical personnel, coaches, administrators, and other athletes. Education should include recognition of sexual abuse/harassment, Title IX obligations, and reporting procedures, as well as repercussions for failure to report. This training may be included with existing programs for cultural competency, discrimination, and other programs but must be specific to the athlete.

The Forum calls upon its related sports medicine professional organizations to work together to develop a consensus statement and action plan protecting the competitive athlete from sexual harassment and abuse.

The Forum would like to thank Marlene DeMaio, MD, FAAOS, University of Pennsylvania; Tamara Scerpella, MD, FAAOS, University of Wisconsin; Karen M. Sutton, MD, FAAOS, Hospital for Special Surgery; and Michelle Wolcott, MD, FAAOS, University of Colorado, for writing the statement and coordinating with the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society.

References for the studies cited can be found in the online version of the position statement, available at www.aaos.org/About/Statements/Position.

References

  1. International Paralympic Committee: Position Statement on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport (Section 2, Chapter 4.2). In: IPC Handbook. May 2008.
  2. Jeckell AS, Copenhaver EA, Diamond AB: The spectrum of hazing and peer sexual abuse in sports: a current perspective. Sports Health 2018;10:558-64.