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Keywords:

  • college athletes;
  • Title IX;
  • NCAA guidelines

Paper Presentation

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  2. Paper Presentation

Background

Nurses are committed to all aspects of women's health. Although Title IX has prohibited pregnancy discrimination since 1976, discriminatory practices in college athletics continue to include removing pregnant athletes’ scholarships and athletic participation, requiring female athletes to sign statements that they will not get pregnant, and shaming pregnant athletes. These practices create unsafe health environments, which motivate pregnant college athletes to conceal their pregnancies and worse. In 2007 two college freshmen athletes killed their term infants after delivering in their dorm rooms.

Case

This session summarizes knowledge on intense exercise during pregnancy and chronicles one nurse's 5-year advocacy for women's health by changing the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) policies on pregnancy. The new NCAA's guidelines, co-authored by the presenter and distributed to all NCAA schools, generally protect pregnant athletes’ scholarships, inform athletes and athletic administrators about safe athletic participation during pregnancy, and create a safer environment for pregnant athletes to reveal pregnancy and seek health care. Yet the process remains imperfect. For example, institutions that view pregnancy as a violation of student conduct are still permitted to revoke pregnant athletes’ scholarships. Pregnant individuals who self-identify (following the new NCAA guidelines) may not realize that they are inviting these consequences. The NCAA continues to deny new fathers time away from athletics needed to parent. The new NCAA guidelines do not carry the authority of bylaws and do not require reinstatement as Title IX directs.

Title IX, case studies, current research on intense exercise during pregnancy, and the new NCAA guidelines will be reviewed to ignite participants’ passions to improve outcomes in this vulnerable population. Pregnancy issues unique to competitive athletes will be presented including the male model of competitive sports, the culture of risk which encourages athletes to deny pain and injuries in order to continue competing, pregnancy as a crisis, and a widespread myth that pregnancy enhances athletic performance and is a form of illegal blood doping.

Implications for Practice

Recommendations for new directions in nursing research and advocacy will include nursing research focused on this unstudied population, breastfeeding in new college athlete mothers, male athletes who father children during college, high school athletes, and athletes at faith-based schools.