Pregnant Athletes Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

Pregnant Athletes


In the case of Fantasia Goodwin, the central ethical issue is whether she should put the pregnancy at risk and hide it in order to continue playing on the team. This is a major problem because it forms the basis of the alternative decisions that she can make. It is a central issue because the consequences to both the mother and the baby can be major and may bring liability to other organizations such as the school athletics department for allowing the student to play while pregnant. Other ethical issues that arise involve whether it is right for her to abort the pregnancy in order to continue playing. Abortion in certain states is considered as illegal and immoral therefore there is the issue of legality and morality of abortion. She is also faced with the ethical issue of being benched when the school finds out she is pregnant. This is an issue because in Syracuse, a student-athlete who is involved in a physical contact sport is pulled off the team when she gets pregnant. Another ethical issue from a broader perspective is whether female athletes should face negative consequences when they get pregnant. This arises from the fact that the NCAA rules allow for pregnant athletes to be medically redshirted an allowed an extra year of being eligible as an athletic. The last issue is whether students should have unprotected sex in the first place. Unprotected sex places the individual at risk of sexually transmitted infections and also at risk of getting pregnant.


According to Miller, Sabo, Farrell, Barnes, and Melnick (1998)

, playing of sports during pregnancy needs several factors to be carefully considered in order to ensure the safety of the mother and the baby. These factors include the health of the mother and the risk to the fetus, the stage of pregnancy, the type of sport, risk of overheating during sports and risk of injury. These factors play differently in each individual. Therefore the outcomes vary for each person. There are some people who can lay physical contact sports and experience no complications while some cannot even play light sports without complications. During pregnancy, there are changes to the body weight, blood pressure, ligaments and bones which can create complications. Playing of physical contact sports that are highly competitive are usually considered sage within the first trimester but as the pregnancy progresses, the athlete is often advised to play non-contact or minimal contact sports.

Sports generally generate a lot of heat leading to a risk of overheating during pregnancy. Doctors therefore often advice pregnant athletes to drink a lot of water and avoid sports that are played in hot or humid environments. Basketball is very intensive and competitive and is often advised against during pregnancy. This is because of the risk of injury to ligaments, joints and muscles and because of the extra weight of the baby causing strain on the body itself. The growth of the baby in the womb also affects the body's balance by shifting the center of gravity.

Brady (1998)

points at other issues such as oxygen deficit which come about when playing high intensity or competitive sports. The duration and intensity of the exercise can affect the heart rate of the fetus because this high intensity causes shortness of breath in the athlete. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, however, states that if a person was playing a high intensity sport before getting pregnancy, there are greater changes they can continue playing even when pregnant. This is because the risks to the unborn child if the person was already an athlete are next to nil. Dehydration is the only serious concern and the athlete should be extremely cautious while playing.

This argument of benefits of continuing playing sports during pregnancy is also supported by Evenson, Siega-Riz, Savitz, Leiferman, and Thorp (2002)

who advise that there are benefits of playing sports during pregnancy. It helps to maintain fitness levels, helps the mother to control their weight better and it also helps to better the mood of the pregnant athlete. The authors also add that it is illegal for pregnant athletes to be discriminated against as a result of their pregnancy. However, in many cases, the student-athletes fear losing their scholarships, their place in the team or capturing the eye of scouts as a result of being benched while pregnant. Therefore they often choose to hide their pregnancy until when it is too late to do so.


There are several alternatives available to Fantasia in light of this ethical dilemma. The table below shows an analysis of the various options and how they affect the different stakeholders involved.



Hide the pregnancy

Inform the team and athletics department

Abort the pregnancy

Accept to be medically redshirted

Fantasia Goodwin (pregnant athlete)

She will continue playing on the team and may risk complications

She may be taken off the team and may also lose her scholarship and therefore not complete college

She may experience complications that lead her never to play again. She may also experience guilt as a result of this. On the contrary, she could be able to continue playing.

She will have to stay in college for longer.

Syracuse women's basketball team

They will have a key player in the team but share the risk of pregnancy complications

They may lose a key player of the team as a result of being taken off the team or losing her scholarship

They may lose a member of the team as a result of complications and guilt facing Fantasia. On the other hand they may keep her as a member of the team.

They will lose a member of the team for one year while she is pregnant but will have a key player back after that year.

Syracuse athletics department

They may face liability of letting a pregnant player continue playing. On the contrary, there may never be complications and thus they will continue to have a good player in the team.

They may face a tough decision of taking her off the team or having to end her athletics scholarship as a result of her pregnancy.

They may lose a member of the team if she faces complications but they may also be able to keep her if the abortion is successful.

They will not have a key player for one year and will have to pay an extra year for Fantasia's scholarship.


They may face liability for allowing a pregnant athlete to continue playing on the team. On the other hand, they may never have any problems if Fantasia has no complications.

They may have a hard time trying to convince Syracuse to medically redshirt Fantasia which may cause friction between the two parties.

They may never face any liability if the abortion is successful.

This decision will not affect them.


Consequential ethical theory

Act utilitarianism theory states that the morality of an action done by a person is judged by the amount of happiness the action brings compared to other activities that the person would be doing at the same time. The theory can only be applied to a concrete action which is one that occurs on one occasion and has only one agent. The theory then evaluates this action on three grounds Moore, 2007.

This depends on whether it is obligatory, permissible or forbidden. The theory thus states that an action is right if it causes pleasure and does not cause any pain to the stakeholders involved. In this theory, two actions can also be compared whereby the one that causes more happiness and least pain is considered to be the better option Feldman, 1978()

In the case of Fantasia Goodwin, the act utilitarianism theory can be applied to judge the morality of the action she chose. Fantasia chose to hide the pregnancy from the team and athletics department. This is a concrete action that she could only do one and only she could do. Therefore the theory is applicable. The action can also be classified as forbidden, obligatory or permissible. Using the theory, the action can be said to be permissible. This is because it causes happiness to her as she is able to continue playing and to be competitive and she will also keep her scholarship. It also causes happiness to the team members and the athletics department who will keep a key player in their team.

Non-consequential ethical theory

Virtue ethics theory examines the morality of an action on the character of a typical virtuous individual. The key concepts in the theory are excellence or virtue which is referred to as arete, practical or moral wisdom, phronesis, and flourishing or succeeding, eudaimonia. According to the theory, the morality of an action that a person does is based on the moral virtues that the person develops for themselves. Therefore if according to the person's or another person's character the action is virtuous, then it generally is morally right…

Cite This Case Study:

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