Sports Med Garnering Headlines — the Ugly Way

Our profession’s shame — headlining the newspapers this past weekend

I woke up Saturday to local news that had a national profile and an international impact:  the front page of ‘my’ local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch announced in a headline A Failure to act by OSU and went on to describe in the first few lines the essence of the story:

“Over his 20-year career, Strauss would go on to abuse at least 177 male students at Ohio State. For years, nobody stopped him.”

Nobody stopped him.

Dr. Richard Strauss was a team physician for Ohio State (OSU) athletics, taking care of wrestlers and football players.  He was as well a founding member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), one of the premier professional bodies in our profession (I am also a member of the AMSSM).

If you have not read this story, I encourage you to take a look. In brief, one year ago Ohio State announced an independent investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Dr. Richard Strauss that had emerged at that time.  Dr. Strauss was a team physician at OSU from the period of 1978 to 1998. He died in 2005 when he committed suicide.  During his tenure the report reveals he abused at least 177 athletes.

There have been multiple media reports, but you may not have had the ability yet to see the full report, which has been released by OSU can can be found here.

I honestly find myself at a loss for words here. That is, I don’t have much in the way of commentary.  I want more than anything with this post to bear witness to the victims and to air this news as widely as possible; it may be that some of the readers of this blog are international and possibly have not heard this news yet.

Our profession of sports medicine has earned these headlines before — the Larry Nassar story still plays out, with USA Gymnastics in shambles a)nd the lives of hundreds of young women forever altered.  Our sports and top institutions have earned these ugly headlines far too often:  from the story Jerry Sandusky and Penn State in the USA to Barry Bennell and youth football in the UK.

“Nobody stopped him.”  The subtext of each one of these ugly, headline-making stories.

I think if the story of abuse in the Church (as told in ‘Spotlight’ and other movies) teaches us anything, it is that the last ugly story we have heard will not be the last ugly story we hear.  There are a Richard Strauss and a Larry Nassar alive and practicing in our profession right now.

Bear witness. Open our eyes to the possibility that this is occurring in your institution, your school, your community. Be willing to speak out and act. Look at resources such as the UN’s initiative on safeguarding in sport (particularly useful for youth sports). The IOC likewise has a ‘toolkit’ — Safeguarding Athletes from Abuse and Harassment in Sport. 

More than anything in a post like this, I would look to you the sports medicine community to share back with me what your thoughts are about this, what resources you are aware of to make these headlines go away.

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