How sports medicine debate can help society

As this article points out, all sports would benefit greatly if a distinction could ever be made between performance enhancement and quick healing. Such a discussion could eventually lead to other debates with far greater impact and importance to society.

Rule makers hate ethics because it’s grey, not black and white. While it is certainly easier to simply outright ban whole categories of drugs and technology, it’s not good for anyone in the sport. The injured athlete can’t play; his team is missing personnel; and the fans don’t get to see the best possible performance.

In this case, it isn’t that hard to redraw the line…in theory. The current definition of performance enhancement is anything that allows ‘someone to perform faster at a level higher than they might have under normal circumstances.’ To a hardliner, ‘normal circumstances’ includes injuries. All that needs to be done here is to classify injuries as ‘abnormal’ and to allow drugs and technologies that are used solely to returns an athlete to the same or similar condition he was before the injury. Obviously this rule is harder to enforce than an outright ban, but the benefits are too good to pass up without at least a serious discussion.

People are passionate about sports, and if they can have a serious discussion about this issue then maybe society can eventually have a serious discussion about more vexing and important issues like end-of-life. A staggering amount of money is spent on people in their last year of life, and not enough people ask whether it’s really the right thing to do. We have been doing it because 1) we have the technology, 2) someone else is paying for it, and 3) it’s just easier to assume that everyone wants to live as long as possible. But it’s time to ask the tough questions because money doesn’t grow on trees, and a year of pain hooked up to machines isn’t remotely the same as a year of regular life.

2 thoughts on “How sports medicine debate can help society

  1. Justarius’s article and the linked article by Jason Cole make me think of ethics as it relates to sports medicine. When we think of the ethics of sports medicine, often the emphasis centers on the egregious wrong done by athletes abusing performance enhancing drugs. We cry foul, and act disdainful. We forget football players like Cushing (recently banned for four games for illegal substance use) perform on the field for our benefit, for our entertainment. On the one hand we want them to play hard, for every game, but on the other hand we punish them for seeking ways to keep their bodies healthy (which every game is a literal attack on the body, not a gain). The lines between healing and enhancement are blurred even though the facts are presented too often as unequivocal. Ethics of sports (or anything) is not always so black and white. Oddly, we miss the ethical good in medicine: to HEAL PEOPLE. How can we have forgotten this Hippocratic injunction?! I agree that a univocal censure of performance enhancing drugs is analogous to banning spell checking software on office suites or citing one’s sources using easybib or even taking vitamins. I am not sure what needs to be done, but I like how Justarius links Ethics to Sports. It is a relevant topic where ethics can help provide an answer.

  2. Thanks for your comment , Greig. To think ethically, people must periodically step back and consider the larger picture. Sometime we get so swept up by one issue or another that we forget what’s really important.

Comments welcome!