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Pregnant Women and Sport

Last year controversy sparked Netball Australia’s decision to ban pregnant women from playing competitive netball. The ban was finally lifted earlier this year but pregnant women were still being warned about contact sports. Now, after the release of national guidelines on the issue and netballer Trudy Gardner’s plans to sue Netball Australia, the topic is in the news again

Last year controversy sparked Netball Australia’s decision to ban pregnant women from playing competitive netball. The ban was finally lifted earlier this year but pregnant women were still being warned about contact sports. Now, after the release of national guidelines on the issue and netballer Trudy Gardner’s plans to sue Netball Australia, the topic is in the news again.

On June 18 2001 Netball Australia banned pregnant women from playing at all grades due to fears of injuries and insurance concerns. The decision sparked criticism from doctors, players and women nation wide. Particular pressure from Adelaide Ravens skipper Trudy Gardner, who challenged the ban at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, helped to force Netball Australia to finally reverse their ban on March 23 2002. Netball Australia however has still continued to recommend that pregnant women do not play.

Controversy over pregnant women participating in sport forced the Australian Sports Commission to release national guidelines on the issue in early May this year. The guidelines stress that pregnant women should consult medical advice before participating in sport but the final decision should be left to the individual. The report also found that the benefits of continuing to play sport at some level throughout pregnancy could outweigh the potential risks and that sporting mishaps were unlikely to harm the unborn baby. Keeping fit throughout pregnancy can really help the birth and early motherhood.

The federal government report also found that a ban on pregnant women participating in sport may contravene state and federal anti-discrimination laws. As a result of the report women in some sports may be asked to sign legal disclaimers yet it also recognises that legal waivers will not stop her unborn child from taking legal action in the future. Warning signs at sporting venues and pregnancy testing was also a possibility however it would be illegal if the test was used to discriminate against a pregnant woman.

Despite winning a court injunction, allowing her to continue playing netball last year while she was pregnant, Trudy Gardner is taking Netball Australia to court. The case was terminated earlier this month after they were unable to resolve their disagreement in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. On matters of principle Gardner was determined not to give up and would be seeking damages for distress, pain, suffering and also a small amount for loss of match payments and sponsorship money when she was banned from playing netball.




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