In addition to maintaining their own ethical practices, athletic trainers may find themselves in the predicament of witnessing another athletic trainer, coach or other professional engaging in unethical behavior. When this happens, what is your role? Should you report the behavior, or simply brush it off as none of your business? The best answer might be somewhere in between.
When I was a high school athletic trainer I was faced with such a dilemma. I had been at the school for several years and had built up a lot of trust with my athletes. Most of them were comfortable enough with me that they would talk to me about almost anything. One day an athlete came to me and said she needed to talk but wanted me to promise not to tell her parents. I was very wary of the situation, I wanted her to feel like she could come to me with problems but I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with the idea of having to keep something from her parent. In the end, curiosity won me over and I decided to hear her out.
The athlete proceeded to tell me that she had been feeling awful all day. She had the worst headache she remembered ever having and even the thought or sight of food make her feel sick. Upon further investigation, it turned out that the athlete had her first experience with alcohol the night before and she had a hangover. I informed her that this was her body’s reaction to drinking too much and promised that I would not tell her parents. However, as the athlete elaborated on her story of the previous night’s events, it was revealed that the alcohol had been provided to her by one of her assistant coaches. This coach had graduated from the same high school a few years earlier and had returned to help coach her team. At this point in the conversation I knew this had escalated way past not telling a parent that their daughter had been drinking. I knew that I could no longer keep this to myself and informed the athlete of this. At first she was upset that I was no longer going to keep her secret, but after I explained my dilemma, and why it was inappropriate for the coach to provide her with alcohol she understood. At this point, I met with the head coach and let her know what had happened and let her handle the situation from there.
In this particular situation I felt it was my duty to let the head coach know that one of her assistant’s wasn’t behaving in a way that he should be with his athletes.