The success of a sports team depends on the quality of its athletes and having a good coach to motivate them. However, there are other factors involved like offering your athletes good training conditions and adequate medical care. This brings us to a question that somehow falls in a grey area – should your club’s doctor undergo a background check? What are the risks of not doing so?

When is a background check necessary?

Under Australian law, most personnel working in the healthcare sector must undergo strict background checks, under the Working With Children and the Working With Vulnerable People acts. These are meant to ensure that doctors and nurses are people with an impeccable record to minimize the risks of having them abuse the patients in their care.

With sports things are a bit different. If a doctor will be working with school-age athletes chances are they will be required to obtain a Working With Children permit anyway. The working with children permit is extensively used in countries like Australia and has thus far proved to be an appropriate control to prevent harm to children. You can obtain further knowledge of the Australian scheme by going to the working with children check information link. What about those working with 18-year olds? Who’s going to protect them?

Feb 26, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) is examined by a team doctor after a collision with a Toronto Raptor at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto defeated Boston. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

A sports doctor can make or break an athlete’s career

Anyone who knows anything about sports is aware of the importance of having a good doctor for your team and this does not refer only to their professional capacity, but also to their character.

A sports team’s doctor will often get to know a young athlete better than his or her own parents. Physically, as well as mentally as most young athletes will confide in their doctors and tell them all their problems. This gives doctors an immense power over the athletes in their care. 

An athlete can be subjected to all manners of intimate physical exams all in the name of science and most won’t dare to refuse or speak out for fear the doctor will have them eliminated from the team.

Just think of the huge US gymnastics sex scandal, in which Larry Nassar, the doctor of the national team, was accused of sexually assaulting female gymnasts, most of them minors at the time of the abuse. 

Also, there have been many scandals around the world involving sports doctors who prescribed illegal substances to their athletes and in many cases, the athletes were not even aware of what they were given.

A convenient way to run a background check 

Even when background checks are not mandated by law, the risks of hiring a doctor for your team without proper screening are simply too big. 

Any sports club should make background checks on their doctors a part of their hiring protocol, no ifs and buts. 

To make sure things go smooth, a club can use the services of an online agency. In some cases, a person involved in a scandal might move to another part of the country hoping no one will know them there, but by doing a background check the decision maker will get a thorough background check which retrieves information from the police databases in all states and territories of the country where the check is being applied for. If your new doctor has any offence or pending charges on their record, you will know about it. 

Giving people a second chance is a good and generous idea, but not when it comes to the athletes registered with your club. A doctor charged with offences against young athletes might deserve another chance, just not in sports. They do not deserve that sort of trust and have no place working ever again around young athletes.