UIC Kinesiologist Discusses ‘Mistreatment’ of Athletes Following Injury

John Coumbe-Lilley is a kinesiologist at the University of Chicago Illinois has been conducting research since 2018 on the grueling recovery process that athletes undergo after suffering serious injuries.

Coumbe-Lilley recently sat down for a Q&A with Alyssa Muir of The Medill Report to detail his research.

Below is an excerpt from that Q&A.

kinesiologistWhat can you share about your research subjects?

I’ve got 45 cases — 13 are men and the rest are women. They range from Division I, national teams, college, and varsity high school. The injuries range from traumatic brain injury, pelvic fractures, ACLs, and ulnar collateral ligament injuries. It’s been many sports as well: soccer, baseball, volleyball, rugby, track and field, and American football.

What findings have you discovered so far?

Of the 45 cases, we’ve only got three that we can point to and say that they’ve had positive emotional outcomes as a response to their rehabilitation. We’ve just done a piece where a third of those cases can tie their emotional (suffering) to the mistreatment that they’ve received from coaches and medical professionals. We have several cases of emotional abuse, dehumanization, body shaming, restriction of medical treatment. It’s a (bleep) show.

What have you seen in terms of mental health support for these athletes through their rehabilitation process?

In the sample that we have, we have 100% of athletes who did not receive a mental health referral of any kind in the beginning. Imagine hearing you’re going to be out six months minimum before you’re cleared to return to play. You would think common sense would say that’s going to be a hard recovery. But all 45 athletes never received any information or any kind of mental health referral just to talk to someone about what’s in front of them. There’s an absence of mental health support for these individuals that will experience several peaks and troughs as they go through the rehab experience.

To read the full Q&A from The Medill Report with kinesiologist John Coumbe-Lilley, click here