Rules Limiting Athletic Performance or Prohibiting Athletic Participation for Health Reasons

Legal and Ethical Considerations


  • Matthew J. Mitten



This article analyzes the paradox between: 1) intercollegiate sport’s objectives of maximizing athletic performance and providing athletic participation opportunities to those possessing the requisite physical ability and skills to compete successfully; and 2) National Collegiate Athletic Association rules that limit athletic performance by all student-athletes, or university requirements that prohibit individual student-athletes from participating in intercollegiate sports, for health reasons. Some student-athletes seek to maximize athletic performance by taking performance-enhancing substances, even if doing so creates potential future adverse health effects. Others may want to participate in intercollegiate sports with a physical abnormality and are willing to assume an increased risk or severity of injury beyond that inherent in the sport. However, the NCAA and its member universities, as producers and regulators of intercollegiate sports, have valid legal authority and ethical grounds to promulgate and enforce health, safety, and competition rules that limit the autonomy interests of adult student-athletes.

Author Biography

Matthew J. Mitten

The author is a Professor of Law and Director, National Sports Law Institute, Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee, WI. He was a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports from September 1999–August 2005 and served as chairman from 2002–2005.




How to Cite

Mitten, M. J. (2009). Rules Limiting Athletic Performance or Prohibiting Athletic Participation for Health Reasons: Legal and Ethical Considerations. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 2(1), 99–113.