Study shows gender disparity in NCAA team physicians, athletic trainers

UPI 1 month ago

Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Title IX legislation may have leveled the playing for men and women in college athletics, but a new analysis suggests there's still work to be done to achieve equality among those who provide their healthcare.

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and Purdue University reviewed the medical and training staffs within the athletic departments at all 1,121 NCAA member colleges and universities, and found that the vast majority of those working in these positions were men.

The study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, also suggests the disparity is more pronounced at "major" -- or Division I -- athletic programs.

"The NCAA is aware of gender and racial inequalities in the delivery of health care in our society and within the microcosm of collegiate athletics, and such societal inequalities may also be associated with cultural insensitivity and public health problems," Dr. Brian Hainline, chief medical officer at the NCAA, told UPI.

"We are actively working with our allies in organizations such as the National Athletic Trainers' Association and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine to address this issue within collegiate athletics. We are also working with the Association of American Medical Colleges to develop creative solutions that address a societal pipeline issue," Hainline added.

A spokesperson for the NCAA, the organization that oversees intercollegiate athletics for the vast majority of institutions in the U.S., added that officials there had not yet had an opportunity to review the study findings, which were embargoed until 11 a.m. Monday.

Citing figures from the American Medical Association and the NCAA, the authors of the JAMA Internal Medicine analysis noted that women make up roughly 35 percent of all practicing physicians in the U.S. -- a number that is increasing -- and 44 percent of all student-athletes.

However, just 11 percent of the 1,145 team physicians working for NCAA athletic programs are women -- including 10 percent at the Division I level -- while only 31.7 percent of all head athletic trainers working at member schools are female, with 19.8 percent in the role at Division I schools.

The findings are based on a review of the NCAA member directory for the 2018-19 academic year.

While the authors of the study did not respond to requests for comment at press time, they wrote that "the findings of this study suggest that the executive leadership of NCAA institutions should identify organizational and social barriers to gender equity in sports medicine leadership roles."

"Colleges and universities should implement strategies to promote inclusion and career development, and appoint more women as head team physicians and head athletic trainers," the researchers said.

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