Pressure From Coaches Jeopardizes Athletes’ Health

By Ken Reed

John Gerdy is one of my favorite sports reformers. He has an extensive background in many aspects of sports. His essays on various sports issues are always well thought out and supported.

In the September issue of his newsletter Quick Hits, John has a compelling essay on college athletes’ rights and safety. He touches on many subjects in the essay but one that really caught my attention was a survey of college athletic trainers, conducted by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA).

There were some stunning findings from this survey. For example, approximately 19% of collegiate athletic trainers reported coaches playing athletes deemed “medically out of participation.”

In addition, 36% of trainers alleged coaches have too much power in how medical staffs are operating, directly influencing who is hired and fired from medical staffs. Of those trainers, 58% also said they felt a coach or administrator pressured them to make decisions “not in the best interest of a student-athlete’s health.”

It’s important to note that this study came out about three years after the NCAA passed legislation specifically designed to prevent coaches from having any input regarding medical staffs’ decisions on the health of players.

With all the big dollars in big-time college athletics today, coaches are feeling a lot of pressure to win, and win now. While that’s understandable, we can’t allow that pressure to negatively impact the health of college athletes. Unlike their professional counterparts, these young college athletes don’t have a union to help protect them from health and safety abuses like this.

“A coach should not have any type of an opportunity to provide an opinion on whether or not those [medical] decisions are being made correctly,” said NATA president Tory Lindley. “They lack the medical expertise to provide an opinion.”

The NCAA in general, and universities in particular, need to do a better job of protecting athletic trainers from coaches who are driven by a win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mentality.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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