Jun 8, 2018
Preventative Measures

Michigan State University recently agreed to a $500 million settlement in the Larry Nassar case, in which more than 300 females reported being sexually abused by Nassar during his time as a physician for MSU and as the national team doctor for USA Gymnastics. In the wake of the case, athletic trainers and other sports medicine professionals are taking a closer look at prevention and intervention efforts surrounding sexual abuse.

At the University of Wisconsin, key personnel have been examining whether students are being protected as much as they need to be by the institution. According to an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this investigation was started to check on student-athletes’ health and safety. UW’s report will be shared at an athletic board meeting on June 15.

“What does that [medical care] look like in the training room?” Peter Miller, PhD, Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW, Chairman of the UW Athletic Board, and a Faculty Representative to the Big Ten Conference and NCAA, said. “What does it look like when you have an injury? What does the protocol communication look like? How do we know who is working with our students and how are they vetted? This is a process that we’re taking very seriously. It’s not an empirical study. It’s not something that we’re going to try to make empirical conclusions about. It is a limited process. We’re not claiming to find every single issue but we’re trying to make it the best we can.”

The report was done with the intent of working proactively to evaluate the care student-athletes are receiving at UW. More than 500 people who are associated with the athletic department provided feedback for the report, though Miller notes that it’s important to remember the project’s goal.

“It is not a broader audit of the whole functioning of the department,” he said. “It is not at all being done in response to problems that we think are here. It is not an investigation in any way. It is kind of a proactive search of what is going on.”

For athletic trainers specifically, the NATA has recently posted a guide with information about athletic trainers’ duty to report signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. The guide states:

“The ATs primary responsibility is to the patient, and this responsibility goes beyond providing quality health care; patient safety and advocacy are paramount. The athletic trainer must remain vigilant in recognizing and reporting possible sexual abuse or assault. It is important to remember that duty to report is based on the suspicion of abuse; evidence is not required. We recommend that ATs take a proactive approach in working with employers and school systems in establishing protocol for employees to report suspected or known sexual abuse or assault of their patient, child or adult affiliated with the organization.”

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