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LiU study on abuse in athletics

How common is sexual assault against young athletes? This is the question being investigated in a LiU study led byToomas Timpka, professor of Social Medicine. At least 650 active athletes are taking part, and the results are expected in the autumn of 2012.

This spring, Swedish high jumper Patrik Sjöberg’s revealed that he had been subjected to assault by his trainer for several years and this revelation shook the entire sports movement.

“It was a complete shock. I had absolutely no idea of what he endured, but earlier I had heard similar things from a club in the Stockholm region,” Timpka says.

For several years he has studied injuries in athletes in collaboration with the Swedish Sports Federation (Riksidrottsförbundet) and also conducted a major review of injuries in youth football. The same web-based data collection system will be used for the new study. The participants, 16 and over, form a representative selection of the best athletes in Sweden. For minors, their parents’ consent will be obtained. All data will remain anonymous and the regional ethics review board will review the structure of the study.

“If an athlete needs professional help to work through their experiences, we will provide contacts,” Timpka says.

If a crime is suspected, it will be up to the individual to file a police report.

In the autumn of 2012, Timpka estimates the first results from the study will be ready to publish. Beyond estimating the prevalence of assault, he wants to try to demonstrate what mechanisms, environments, and contexts lie behind it.

“Surprisingly little research has been done in the field, and nothing at all in athletics,” he says.

Among the participants in the project are Staffan Janson, professor at Karlstad University and government investigator into child abuse; and Sverker Nilsson, professor at the University of Gothenburg and former national team doctor.

Related material: Sports safety

Text: Åke Hjelm



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Last updated: 2012-12-10