How many times have you heard that statement while growing up? Although not considered a frequent injury in sport, it clearly has long ranging implications. According to Harrison and Telander (2002), the leading cause of blindness in school-aged children in the United States is sports-related injury. Of these reported injuries, 90 percent of these sports-related eye injuries could be prevented with protective eyewear. These authors estimate approximately $175 million in annual costs for the approximate 100,000 visits to doctors. Understanding the impact of eye injuries is critical to enforcing eye safety strategies in athletics. To get a better understanding, the following link provides “Fast Facts from the Coalition to Prevent Sports Eye Injuries.” (http://www.sportseyeinjuries.com/fastfacts.aspx)
Consider the following case in light of the information provided in the fact sheet.
As a DIII collegiate Athletic Trainer (AT), you have an offensive lineman report for pre-season football camp with a history of previous eye injury resulting in the loss of the left eye. The eye has been replaced with a prosthetic eye, and the right eye is fully functional. In the pre-participation physical exam, the AT has advised the athlete that participating with the loss of a paired organ is contraindicated. The AT refers the athlete to the physician for consideration for clearance, as the athlete is committed to playing football in hopes of securing a sport in the NFL. The team physician refuses to clear the athlete due to the risk of injury to the remaining eye and consequences of that loss. The family then secures an attorney and launches a lawsuit regarding denying the student the potential likelihood of earning a living in the future. They are willing to assume the risks associated with the potential loss.
Clearly there are legal and ethical implications in this case. What is the right thing to do? Does the assumption of risk from the parents and attorney absolve the AT of responsibility for protecting the athlete? Are there any other potential ethical issues that could result from this case?
Harrison, A., & Telander, D.G. (2002). Eye Injuries in the youth athlete: a case-based approach. Sports Medicine, 31(1), 33-40.
Written By: Kimberly Peer, EdD, ATC, FNATA
Dr. Peer is an Associate Professor at Kent State University. She holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration with a Cognate in Health Care Management. Kimberly was recently appointed as the editor-in-chief for the Athletic Training Education Journal and serves on the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education Ethics Committee as well as the NATA Committee on Professional Ethics. Her national contributions include service to the BOC, NATA, JAT and REF in multiple capacities. Her statewide service includes the Governor’s appointment to the Ohio licensure board and over 12 years of service to the OATA.
Peer received the NATA Fellow Award and OATA Hall of Fame Award in 2012 and has been lauded with other national, regional and state level awards for her contributions to the profession and athletic training education. Dr. Peer has published and presented extensively on the international and national levels about ethics education and pedagogy and has co-authored with Dr. Gretchen Schlabach the first textbook on ethics in athletic training.