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On behalf of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Margo Mountjoy on psychological injury and abuse in sport LIVE from the IOC World Conference in Monaco. Dr. Mountjoy is a member of the IOC medical commission, FINA executive board member, and associate clinical professor at McMaster University. She explores the various types of harassment, how it can occur, and what safeguards can be put in place to help athletes report abuse.
In this episode, we discuss:
-What form does psychological abuse and injury take in the world of sports?
-How psychological abuse persists with the use of social media for the millennial generation
-How competitive sport culture can enable abuse
-The role healthcare professionals can play in preventing abuse
-Signs and symptoms of psychological and sexual abuse
-And so much more!
One of the key risks for psychological injury and abuse to occur is when “there is a differential in power relationships.” The differential of power could be due to differences in a variety of factors including age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or athletic ability which leads to the harassment and abuse.
The advent of social media has led to more persistent forms of abuse which are carried off the field and into everyday life. With social media, there is no physical escape from the abuse and Dr. Mountjoy believes, “There is always someone that is ready to criticize.”
Psychological injury and abuse in sport is not unique to any one sport or region and global resources are available through Dr. Mountjoy’s research and the IOC to help combat this problem. In our roles as coach, support team or therapist, Dr. Mountjoy stresses, “Each and every one of us in sport has the ability to stop this. But not only the ability, we have the responsibility.”
One of the challenges of helping athletes is that, “Most athletes do not talk about their abuse while they are in sport because the process of abuse often silences the athlete. We see time and time again that we learn about harassment and abuse after they have retired.” However, healthcare providers have unique opportunities to engage athletes as impartial healers and provide support both physically and mentally.
For more information on Dr. Mountjoy:
Margo received her medical education and her family medicine training at McMaster University, Canada and her sports medicine specialty degree in Ottawa, Canada. Margo has worked as a community sports medicine physician in the Health & Performance Centre at the University of Guelph since 1988 where she has focused her practice on promoting elite athlete care and physical activity promotion in the general population. In addition, Margo has acted as the national team physician for Synchro Canada for 20 years as well as for the National Endurance Training Centre Athletes (middle and long distance track athletes) and the National Triathlon & Wrestling team training centres.
Margo is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Faculty of Family Medicine in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, Canada where she teaches sports medicine and is the Director of Student & Resident Affairs.
Margo is a member of the FINA Executive Board and holds the portfolio of Sports Medicine. She is also the Chair of the ASOIF Medical Consultative Group and a member of the IOC Medical Commission Games Group. Margo sits on the TUE committees of the IOC, WADA and CCES as well as the USADA and World Rugby Anti-doping Review Boards. Margo’s areas of research focus on elite athlete health and safety.
Resources discussed on this show:
IOC consensus statement on non-accidental violence in sport
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