Inside ‘Sport, Ethics and Leadership’: Indebted to Injury

October 19th, 2017 | by Jeffrey R. Mitchell
Inside ‘Sport, Ethics and Leadership’: Indebted to Injury


We all cringed Tuesday evening upon seeing the gruesome injury to Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward.  Acquired by the Celtics this past off-season, Hayward was projected to bolster Boston’s continued march toward being an NBA title contender.  Similarly, we shudder every time we witness one of our own players suffer injury.  As getting hurt is part of competitive sport, we have an underlying duty to provide quality care to those impacted.  

Included in Sport, Ethics and Leadership, which was released in July 2017, is an examination of the ethics associated with medical care, rehabilitation, and injury prevention. Co-authors include Santa Clara University Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Jeff Mitchell; sport ethics scholar Jack Bowen; sports attorney Ron Katz; former Santa Clara University law school dean Don Polden; and sports agent Rick Walden.

CollegeAD continues to run a series of excerpts from the book.  Written by Ron Katz, this week’s excerpt comes from the book’s fifth chapter, “The Ethical Costs of Medical Issues.”  


Sport related concussions have been widely reported in the media and featured in the popular film, Concussion, released in 2015. However, concussions have been around since time immemorial, so what is the source of the spike in public interest?

First, concussions are a major ethical issue. Risking one’s mental health for a sporting event implicates utilitarianism, Deontology, virtue ethics and care ethics.

Second, there is an increased understanding of the causes, effects, and costs of certain contact sports because of concussions, costs which, throughout most of history, have been borne by individuals or by tax revenues from society at large. Both the historical ways of paying for concussion related symptoms and the potential new ways—perhaps best exemplified by the approximately one billion dollars the National Football League (NFL) will pay to settle the more than 4000 lawsuits about concussions by former players—have been reflected in the U.S. legal system. The relation of this legal process to the ethics of concussions in sport will be explored in this chapter.

The U.S. legal system has moved from decisions on concussions favoring the assumption of the risk by the individual to an imposition on sport administrators of legal duties to create the environment most conducive to protecting athletes from concussions. Driving this shift is the universalizable ethical principle that those institutions that are benefitting financially or otherwise from a concussion-causing sport—not individuals or society at large—should be financially responsible for the consequences of the injuries.

A less publicized but probably more widespread medical, ethical, and legal problem in sport is injury from overuse of a particular part of the body (depending on the sport). Such overuse is a relatively recent phenomenon among youth because of the proliferation of year-round travel teams dedicated to one sport. This overuse, which raises issues of care ethics, is particularly problematic because it can affect children, who are unable to give informed consent to such overuse.

Related to overuse is the problem of burnout. Continual efforts to succeed in one sport, usually accompanied by pressure from parents and coaches, have caused a large number of youths to drop out of sports altogether. Chronic muscle or joint pain, elevated resting heart rate, and fatigue are medical issues that may manifest as a result, raising issues of care ethics and virtue ethics.


You can pick up a copy of Sport, Ethics and Leadership and save 20%* plus free shipping at To apply your discount, enter FLR40 in your shopping cart.

*This offer expires November 30, 2017, and only applies to print book orders placed via


Jeffrey R. Mitchell About Jeffrey R. Mitchell
Jeffrey R. Mitchell is the Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Operations at Santa Clara University. With a diverse background in intercollegiate athletics administration, Mitchell has experience directing units responsible for revenue generation, media relations and communications, ticketing and marketing, academic support, business operations, and NCAA compliance. A four-year collegiate baseball player, Mitchell earned a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s in Business Administration from Millsaps College. He also earned a J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

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