The goals of sports medicine: What are they and what should they be?

Abstract

While other parts of medicine and health care seems traditionally to be primarily directed at preventing losses of bodily functions, repairing said functions in the case of such losses, or at least to provide ailment for unpleasant symptoms, sports medicine has allready from the beginning been involved with the project of enhancing bodily functions with regard to sports performance. First, when sports medicine involve itself in the traditional health care activity of prevention, therapy and ailment, the aim is often very different from ordinary medical activities in that it tries to secure bodily functions far beyond what is required to reach what would normally be seen as a non-pathological state of a person. Second, sports medicine actively involves itself in the project of extending and enhancing human performance capacities through medical knowledge and technology. This raises several issues both with regard to medical ethics and the ethics of sports. For example, how should the goals of sports medicine be viewed from the perspective of rationing scarce health care resources? Should sports medicine be restricted by rules from the sports community as to which performance enhancing activities are tolerated in that sector? Or should sports medicine rather direct what is to be accepted within the world of sports? Both lines of reasoning are to be found in debates about, e.g., doping, controversial training methods and the potential use of gene technology in sports. The paper will address these issues and analyse them from a philosophical point of view.

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Christian Munthe
University of Gothenburg

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