Many injuries can affect and, in the worst-case scenario, end a professional sports career. A shattered foot, a catastrophic brain injury, a torn cruciate ligament, and, of course, a pregnancy. At least according to the World Tennis Association, the latter also belongs on this list.
Pregnant players are still not acknowledged to as such, but are instead classified as injured. This is not just out of date, but also strange: for example, the rule makes it difficult for players to return to the WTA tour. In an interview with “Sportschau,” tennis player and mother of two Tatjana Maria has denounced this. “I’m not sure why the WTA hasn’t made a special regulation for pregnant ladies, and we have to utilize the rule for injured people,” she remarked. After all, both professional sports and parenthood are doable.
Presenting a pregnancy as an injury is, of course, a convenient way to avoid dealing with the issue and avoid having to address how pregnant women in professional sports may be properly supported. As statistics from the SWR indicated last year, only one in ten elite athletes stated they felt supported by their club or association, had a child, and continued to compete in sports. Almost 2% of women have already decided to get an abortion so that their professional lives are not disrupted.
The problem does not end with birth.
Things are looking up in professional football, thanks in part to the efforts of players like Almuth Schult over the years: Fifa, the world governing body, introduced new rules in 2020, allowing players to take at least 14 weeks of maternity leave and prohibiting contract terminations due to pregnancy. However, the problem does not end with birth. Then there are concerns such as who will look after the youngster while distant tournaments are scheduled. Is it even possible for a woman to raise a child while working? Do they have cash reserves in the same way that male athletes do? Why aren’t there more clubs that provide childcare?
It’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to equating pregnancy with an injury. It should no longer be necessary to balance professional athletics with pregnancy. This includes breaking down barriers around topics like periods, pregnancy, and family planning, as well as providing greater information through clubs and associations. Men, by the way, are in high demand here, and they, too, are entitled to parental leave!