Many Colleges Lack “Pregnant Athlete” Policies

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports (registration required) that most colleges lack policies for athletes who become pregnant. Tara Brady, a student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, sued her former basketball coach for discrimination, claiming that she was told to “go home . . . because her pregnancy would be a ‘distraction’ to the team.” She requested a ‘medical redshirt,’ giving her a chance to forego eligibility for a year, but sued after her claim was rejected. The university settled with Ms. Brady for an unspecified sum.

The article suggests that athletes who become pregnant fear the effect their status will have on their scholarships, and as a result hide their pregnancies (and fail to seek prenatal care), or seek abortions.

Elizabeth Sorenson, faculty athletic representative at Wright State University in Dayton, has proposed the NCAA develop a pregnancy policy. The on-line discussion of the issue is available by linking here. The WSU policy calls on athletes to notify their coaches of pregnancy status, to refrain from withdrawing from their sport, and establishes a support group to counsel a pregnant athlete and oversee continued participation.

However, the NCAA has yet to discuss “maternity-leave”-like policies for pregnant college athletes. Among the questions posed by The Chronicle story are the following:

* Should athletes be required to notify their athletics department if they get pregnant?
* Should they be allowed to play while pregnant?
* Should the NCAA change its bylaws to treat pregnancy as a protected medical condition for which a scholarship should not be revoked?
* What programs should colleges establish to help athletes who become pregnant? To help athletes who have had their babies?