A worthy suggestion from Dr Paul Wright

Saturday, February 23, 2019

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Respected physician and sports medicine specialist Dr Paul Wright has raised a very serious issue in his column published in the latest edition of the online discussion forum Public Opinion.

Dr Wright, who has decades of experience in his field, made a call for athletes, particularly those in school, to be protected from abuse, especially from the adults entrusted with their care and development.

While he made mention of sexual abuse, Dr Wright's main focus in the column was on physical abuse by coaches whose main aim, he said, is to win at all cost, no matter the consequence.

To make his point, Dr Wright pointed to Mr Antonio Watson — whom he described as “a national treasure” based on his performance on the world stage. Mr Watson competed in the 400 metres hurdles last week at Western Championships and suffered an injury.

“Early reports are that it is a 'quads' injury. Then, to the amazement of everyone present at the meet, the injured athlete turned up and competed in a later race 'for points'. What kind of madness is this?” Dr Wright asked.

He also reminded readers that two years ago young Mr Michael O'Hara was touted as the best male sprinter to continue in the footsteps of the amazing Mr Usain Bolt. However, after the annual Boys Championships, Mr O'Hara's “new” coach discovered that his muscles had so much scar tissue that he had to be placed on a two-year programme of rehabilitation. Mr O'Hara, Dr Wright pointed out, has just returned to competition.

Dr Wright then pointed to the case of young Ms Kevona Davis, easily the most exciting female sprinting prospect at last year's Girls' Championships. After that event, Ms Davis missed out on international competition through injury which, Dr Wright said, was rumoured to be directly related to overuse.

It is not uncommon to see student athletes competing, especially at Champs, heavily bandaged, in an obvious attempt to secure points for their school. The fact that these obviously injured youngsters are allowed to take the track speaks to a level of irresponsibility by their coaches, track team staff, the schools themselves and, in some cases, their parents.

We agree with Dr Wright's point that if a child is injured, an assessment must be made firstly about diagnosis, then treatment, and finally healing time. Children who are gifted with unusual athletic ability deserve to be allowed to heal properly before being encouraged to perform again.

Dr Wright repeated his suggestion that children who have been identified as “national treasures”, as a result of their performance at Champs, “must be immediately transferred to the oversight care of a Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association-nominated panel of experts who, in conjunction with the child's coach, from whatever school or institution the child prodigy attends, plans the future events, meets that the child will perform in while maximising their obvious talent”.

This, he argued, will ensure the longevity of the child's athletic career and consequently improve the child's physical, mental and economic well-being in the now lucrative world of the sport of his/her choice.

It is a recommendation worthy of serious discussion.

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