Safeguarding the young athlete in sport


Lisa Bode, Tine Vertommen, Christian Nührenbörger,
Safeguarding the young athlete in sport,
Sports Orthopaedics and Traumatology,
Volume 39, Issue 2, 2023, Pages 145-154, ISSN 0949-328X,

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Recent cases and studies have proven the need for measures of prevention of interpersonal violence against children and adolescents in sports. Dimensions of violence are multi-faceted and e.g. range from psychological degradation or humiliation based on gender, body shape or performance, undue pressure on young athletes to achieve high performance, sex required as a prerequisite for team selection or privileges, physically injurious or sexually degrading initiation (hazing) rituals, to nutrition and weight loss regimes leading to eating disorders such as anorexia or other health problems, beatings and other forms of physical punishment as a spur to improved performance, injury through forced risk-taking in extreme environments and many other possible forms of violence. Perpetrators can most often be found in the direct environment of the athletes. As the child’s right to play is anchored in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child any organization providing sports activities for children and young athletes should establish safeguarding measures to help prevent interpersonal violence. The aim to support all positive effects of sports on the well-being of an athlete, governments, national sport governing bodies, organizations, international and national associations, sport managers, officials, parents and caregivers, coaches, support staff, physical education teachers, peers, medical, psychological and scientific staff, fans and educators need to be involved. Athletes should be encouraged to speak up for changes, and survivors should be given a safe space to speak their mind – but the responsibility to speak up and stop the abuse is never the athlete‘s, but rather the perpetrator‘s, and that of bystanders and those responsible for organizing sport.