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Ethics in Sports Medicine


We can characterize the medical profession as one which has been reposed on high standards and values of ethical behavior. A particular set of significant codes of ethics has been accepted and developed by the professionals of the medical community which operate as the foundation to the various ethical conventions and beliefs of the care supplied by the caregivers.

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Defining Ethics

Ethics is a term that refers to that branch of philosophy that attempts to deal with questions regarding morality. Ethics tries to differentiate the right from the wrong, commendable from lamentable, good from bad, obligatory from acceptable, responsible from irresponsible, and fair from unfair. Not only does it concern itself with one’s character but also with one’s conduct by addressing both personal matters and public policies. Ethics has often been found to be controversial, complex, and perplexing as it clearly defines one’s conscience. Not only does ethics refer to certain basic standards which human beings need to follow, but also to the development of a person’s ethical standards (Ray, 2005).

Ethics draws its effectiveness from our individual conscience established practices, social environment, religion, and law. Ethics demands virtues of loyalty, honesty, and compassion along with the right to one’s life, privacy, and freedom from injuries. Finally, we can say that ethics places a premium on the definition of good since it uses various methods in order to define what is good, what moral properties one should possess along with their nature and basic foundation of our moral knowledge (Anand, 2006).

Ethical Decision Making

Ethical Egoism

Ethical Egoism is also known as egotism and according to it, moral agents should do what they want to as per their individual self-interest when in a normative ethical situation. Egotism is completely different from ethical altruism which says that moral agents must help and attend to others’ needs. Although egotism does not say that moral agents should ignore the welfare of other people, it also does not say that moral agents should abstain from thinking about the welfare of others during moral consideration (Kar, 2005).

This is because something which may concern the self-interest of the moral agent can also accidentally have beneficial, detrimental, or completely neutral effects on other people. It is very important and also a basic necessity that our actions be morally right so that our self-interest gets maximized. Thus, we see that although ethical egoism does endorse selfishness, it does not at all endorse any foolishness. Ethical egoism has also sometimes been viewed as a philosophical basis that supports individualist anarchism and libertarianism (Fletcher, 2005).


According to the philosophy of utilitarianism, the moral worth of any of our actions should completely be determined by how much it contributes to utility in general, specifically how much it contributes to pleasure or happiness when calculated considering all people. Since here the outcome of an action is determined through its moral worth, utilitarianism is viewed as a type of consequentialism. (Kar, 2005)

According to utilitarianism, utility is pleasure or happiness as opposed to pain or suffering but can also be the satisfaction of our preferences or a life stance where pleasure or happiness holds the utmost importance. Since utilitarianism considers the maximum welfare for the maximum number of people possible, sometimes it is also called the Greatest Happiness Principle and is thus, a reductionist and quantitative approach towards ethics. Some people also consider utilitarianism to be an advanced form of Hedonistic ethical theory which considers happiness to be the outcome of every human conduct. It thus becomes apparent that pain and pleasure should be considered to be the means by which we can distinguish conduct into what is wrong or right (Fletcher, 2005).

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In philosophy, by formalism, we mean stress over meaning or content. A formalist believes that there can be no particular transcendent reasoning to such a field except for the literal meaning that has been provided by the practitioner. Formalism is only concerned about the rightness or value of a moral action along with what official description the action satisfies and the particular type of action performed instead of focusing on its consequences. Ethical formalism believes that in order to determine whether an individual should perform a particular action or refrain from it, he or she should focus only on the moral laws and principles which are universally accepted and applied and not on the basic nature of that action (Kar, 2005).

Formalism is not at all concerned about a particular individual or any difficult circumstance which has given rise to that ethical problem. Instead, formalism is essentially a moral philosophy that completely justifies certain conceptual moral laws. Since formalism does not include ethical thinking for judging a particular case, it completely opposes ethical relativism, contextualism, intuitionism, existentialism, and feminism (Fletcher, 2005).

Ethics as an Athletic Trainer

Recognition of ethical concerns, the study of relevant code of ethics.

It is of utmost necessity that athletic trainers recognize their ethical concerns and follow the principles of ethical behaviors while practicing athletic training. They should have proper knowledge of their state’s athletic training practice acts and explore all the other aspects to make sure that they are following every ethical and legal guideline. In order to reduce the occurrences of any ethical conflicts, the athletic trainers should always study the appropriate professional ethical codes which are applicable specifically to his or her employment setting and role-played (Edelman, 2005).

These ethical codes should be constantly reviewed so that if there is an occurrence of any ethical concern, then it can be resolved immediately. The athletic trainers also need to learn how to recognize particular situations where an ethical concern may be present. This requires the trainers to consider their professional and personal relations which may directly influence the athletes or other patients that the trainers are treating (Fletcher, 2005).

The legal scope of practice and ethics

The legal scope of practice that applies to an athletic trainer is delineated by their individual state laws and thus varies among the different states. Their license contains an exemption statute that defines their legal scope of practice. An athletic trainer can treat and evaluate an athlete or patient as per the established protocols of the state. But if the medical condition of the athlete or patient is beyond the legal scope of practice of the trainer, then he or she should immediately refer the athlete or patient to a qualified caregiver (Edelman, 2005).

The legal ethical issues that an athletic trainer mainly faces are an invasion of privacy, malpractice, and breach of contract. Apart from these athletic trainers may also face legal ethical issues like negligence in patient’s care, failure in obtaining appropriate consent, intentional misconduct, usage of faulty products, and provision of abnormal or dangerous treatments. Sometimes a legal wrong or tort may also be committed by the athletic trainers due to which they may be forcer to pay monetary damages to the patients (Kar, 2005).

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Athletic trainers must always keep their registration along with the medical record documentation of their patients recording the significant observations, findings, and facts about their patients at all times. Such documentation must also include previous and existing examinations, therapies, tests, and treatments along with their positive and negative results. The treatments and care which the patients and athletes receive should be chronologically recorded so that they receive premium care and it is also useful for legal and billing purposes. With proper documentation, the athletic trainers will also be able to form an accurate and complete analysis of their patients and treat them accordingly.

Not only will the trainers be able to monitor and evaluate the treatment and progress of their athletes and patients but will also understand if the athletes are being neglected and not showing enough progress. Further, the athletic trainers can use the documentation for education and research purposes so that they can maximize the quality of care given to the athletes and patients. The documentation must be objective, subjective and must also have an assessment along with an overall plan (Edelman, 2005).


It has often been seen that athletic trainers have played different roles when handling not only their patients but also the family and friends of the patients. Thus, it is absolutely necessary that the trainers be completely familiar with the standardized scope of practice both in the duties they are providing and also within the specified code of ethics that have been allotted by the employing organization.


  1. Anand, V. (2006). The Process of Thought and Perception in Sports Management. Auckland: HDT Ltd.
  2. Edelman, S. (2005). Evaluation of Ethical Considerations. Bloemfontein: ABP Ltd.
  3. Fletcher, R. (2005). Principals: Beliefs and Knowledge. Dunedin: Howard & Price
  4. Kar, P. (2006). Sports Management. Kolkata: Dasgupta & Chatterjee.
  5. Ray, R. (2005). Management Strategies in Athletic Training. (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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"Ethics in Sports Medicine." StudyCorgi, 31 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Ethics in Sports Medicine." October 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Ethics in Sports Medicine." October 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Ethics in Sports Medicine." October 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Ethics in Sports Medicine'. 31 October.

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