The position paper by The Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine, published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, provides sport medicine physicians and other professionals with guidance on dealing with reported or suspected abuse, harassment, or bullying of athletes.
"It is essential that sport medicine specialists be educated on issues of abuse, harassment, and bullying in sport, and be equipped with strategies to intervene if or when potential cases arise," lead author Ashley E. Stirling of University of Toronto, said in a statement.
Abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, along with neglect. Harassment is defined as "unwanted or coerced behaviors" by a person in a position of authority, while bullying refers to potentially harmful "physical, verbal, or psychological behaviors between peers."
The "unbalanced power dynamic" between coaches and athletes is a key risk factor for abuse, Stirling said.
Parents often trust coaches uncritically. The culture of sport itself may be a risk factor for abuse, with athletes sometimes describing sexual exploitation as "part of the game," Stirling said.
The findings were published at the CJSM Web site: see www.cjsportmed.com.