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Opinion The lesson in Sylvia Hatchell’s resignation: Student athletes’ health should come first

North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell yells to her players during a game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Feb. 1, 2018. (Robert Franklin/AP)

The April 20 Sports article “UNC’s Hatchell resigns amid athlete allegations,” about the resignation of Sylvia Hatchell as head coach of University of North Carolina’s women’s basketball program, highlighted ethical issues in the medical care of Division I college athletes.

One is the win-at-all-costs mentality that places the student athletes at risk for physical and mental harm. The No. 1 priority for any college administrator or coach should be the health and well-being of the student athlete. That requires judgment on the part of the coach not to play an injured or hurt athlete.

The other involves the team physician and trainer, who cannot serve two masters — the university who is the employer and the student athletes who are the patients. The ethical obligation on health providers is foremost to treat the patient. That means the coach’s and university’s interests come second when a student athlete is injured and shouldn’t play.

Any deviation from these ethical standards represents a moral disregard for the welfare of the student athletes who are under the coach’s charge. Such deviations also provide student athletes with the wrong ethical lesson — that it is okay to treat people as means to an end for personal or professional gain.

Robert D. Greenberg, Bethesda