When An Athlete Is Pregnant
Issue: AM 19.06 Oct/Nov 2007
A story on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in May thrust the issue of pregnancies among female college student-athletes into the spotlight. Featuring interviews with student-athletes who claimed, mostly anonymously, that they had terminated their pregnancies out of fear of losing their athletic scholarships, the program’s producers pointed out that the majority of colleges nationwide lack written policies to protect pregnant student-athletes.
Following a July meeting of the NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA), that may soon change. The CWA is urging NCAA institutions to create policies addressing student-athlete pregnancy, and will soon come out with a “tool kit” to help them do so.
“In a nutshell, the committee determined that pregnant student-athletes are protected by Title IX,” says Janet Kittell, Associate Athletic Director at Indiana University and Chair of the CWA. “The law has consistently been interpreted as defining pregnancy as a temporary disability, and therefore, pregnant student-athletes must be treated exactly the same as any other student-athlete with a temporary disability.
“If an athlete who suffers a knee injury retains the use of sport medicine rehab facilities, the weightroom, and tutoring, so should a pregnant athlete,” Kittell continues. “Scholarship issues work the same way. Pregnant student-athletes must be treated the same as injured athletes with regard to scholarships."
Drawing on the best examples from schools with policies in place, the CWA’s tool kit will offer a set of practices for drafting and implementing a policy. In the meantime, the committee is urging schools to begin reviewing their current policies and practices.
“Here at Indiana, I’m meeting with our head athletic trainer, our faculty athletics representative, and our team physician to look at our policy,” Kittell says. “The key is to ask yourself if you’re applying fundamental fairness. Is the way you treat pregnant athletes the same way you’d treat any other athlete with a temporary disability? If not, you need to make some changes.”
For more information on this topic, type “pregnancy” into the article search engine, at: www.AthleticManagement.com.
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