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Athletic Training, How to Not Cross the Boundaries

With recent fights against sexual predators, specifically the previous athletic trainer for the U.S.A. women’s gymnastics team, boundaries must be formed to create a comfortable environment.

Larry Nassar, former athletic trainer for U.S women’s Olympic team and doctor at Michigan State University, was recently sentenced 40 to 175 years in prison. He was charged with decades of sexual abuse, as over 150 women stood to testify at the trial.

The first victim to speak, Kyle Stephens said, “Sexual abuse is so much more than a disturbing physical act. It changes the trajectory of a victim’s life, and that is something that nobody has the right to do.” Nassar freely admitted to using his trusted medical position to assault and molest girls under the guise of medical treatment.

Now we must ask ourselves: how can we stop something like this from happening on our own campus?

Presley Dubois, a sophomore athlete on PLNU’s track and field team, said that athletic staff on campus is well-trained and professional.

“As trainers, they are never alone with us. They always take a female student with them when doing evaluations in private, and both coaches and trainers are careful in ensuring to ask us (athletes) ‘can I touch you?’”

Dubois further explained the importance of setting guidelines with trainers. If either the athlete or trainer feels uncomfortable, then put them to work with someone of the same gender. Dubois said that the trainers here on Point Loma’s campus have never made her feel uncomfortable.

Ryan Nokes, a professor of kinesiology, said the situation with Nassar was disturbing, as it continued for so long and he betrayed those who trusted him for medical treatment. Nokes said the positions of athletic training is unique, because you develop relationships with those you help and are working with people every day.

“Boundaries can be blurred, lines can be crossed. When you develop a friendship (with an athlete), care can be manipulated.”

Nokes explains, saying how detrimental blurred boundaries and even close friendships can be to an athlete and a team. Nokes said acting in a professional manner and learning the needs of the patient will create a comfortable environment. Seeing the patient from a bias point of view and investing in their comfortability is key.

Rachele Burr, a sophomore athletic training student, explained her view of those in medical positions taking advantage of patients.

“So many people put so much time and effort into achieving their degrees in healthcare that seeing someone taking advantage of it is upsetting.”

Burr said boundaries are crucial as a training student, and in the future as a certified athletic trainer. She says that interactions between patients and trainers should be kept in the boundaries of work, and relationships outside of the job can be dangerous. Burr says she would celebrate achievements and be there for her patients, but only under the criteria of her position.

“Our jobs are to help our athletes, and not to be their best friends,” said Burr. “Interactions should stay professional.”

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Emilyn Giddings

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