9th May 23

Professional Athlete Injury Confidentiality

Should professional sports people should have the right to confidentiality and privacy regarding their injury status? Or should injury information be public? It’s hard to say as there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, it is important to consider the potential implications of each approach and ensure that any decision made takes into account both the athletes’ rights as well as the need for transparency in sports.

Jofra Archer and his elbow injury:

A recent Twitter post from Jofra Archer, the England Fast Bowler, promoted the debate recently that has seen many athletes discuss whether fans should have a right to know what they have injured. Furthermore, he argues that it could affect how other teams prepare to play against him – reducing his impact as an athlete and therefore affecting his future selection.

Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy teams and how they report sports injuries

In the musculoskeletal physiotherapy world, this is an ever present debate – even at a lower level of sport. Team coaches and managers are always keen to find out what sports injuries their players have sustained and how long it will be before they return to normal activities.

Most sports injuries might only be a few weeks to relieve pain and get back to playing – however others may be a few months and require an extensive rehabilitation exercise program. This can affect selection and team planning, so it is easy to see why they may want to know the extent of the sports injuries sustained by their team.

However, if an athlete sustains serious injuries such as broken bones, damage to the knee ligaments or they require surgery – this can severely impact their future career progression if this is made public knowledge. This has occurred recently with England rugby player Luke Cowan-Dickie, who lost a contract in Montpellier based on imaging tests and a failed medical.

An interesting debate. Let’s explore it further.

Why it is important that athletes have medical confidentiality:

The most important reason why professional athletes should have the right to confidentiality on their injury status is that it helps protect them from exploitation. Many sports teams and organizations are highly competitive, and they may be willing to use any means necessary to gain an edge over their opponents.

Treatment of Sports Injury

They will go through rehabilitation with the musculoskeletal physiotherapy team on an injured body part to ensure they minimise the risk of the sports injury reoccurring – however other teams may target the previously injured area. This can cause re-injury or, at best, a less effective athlete.

Even if the players current organization or team is made aware of an athlete’s sports injury before the athlete does, they could try to use this information to gain a competitive advantage. This could be done through contract negotiations, by hiring another player in the injured athlete’s place, or by trading the injured player away without giving them adequate compensation. It can also affect their future earning potential by depriving them of contracts based on their previous medical history.

It is the role of the musculoskeletal physiotherapy team to work with the player and to only disclose information to the team that the player themselves are comfortable sharing. In the case of minor sports injuries, this might be around what the physiotherapist is doing – such as pain relief techniques or strapping to reduce swelling.

However in a more serious sports injury, the player may not want to disclose the results of an x ray or the diagnosis itself it it may require surgery and an extensive rehabilitation period.

The physiotherapist must always put the players wishes before the team – a tricky situation when you consider that in most instances, the physiotherapist is being paid by the organisation – not the player.

Why should we be informed on an athletes injury status?

The public has a right to know information about the athletes that they are watching, and injury status is an important part of this. Knowing who is injured and for how long helps fans better follow their favourite teams and understand their performance.

Fans also want to be able to get accurate updates on injuries so that they can make informed decisions when selecting which games to attend or what teams to support. Many fans argue that because they pay to watch their teams, they should have the right to know how they are recovering from their sports injuries and when they should be expected back at their previous level.

It also helps organizations and teams make better decisions when it comes to player contracts, roster moves, and other important decisions. Publicly accessible injury information can help team owners understand the long-term impacts of an athlete’s injury status so that they can make more informed decisions about their investments in the athletes.

As mentioned above, despite the fact that the musculoskeletal physiotherapy team will be bound to confidentiality by the player, this does not mean that team stakeholders will not expect them to divulge information about the injured area.

In summary:

In conclusion, it is clear that professional athletes should have the right to confidentiality and privacy regarding their injury status – whether they are suffering with severe or minor injuries. However, this does not mean that the public should be kept in the dark about injuries and other important information about players.

There needs to be a balance between protecting athletes from exploitation while also ensuring that sports teams and organizations are transparent and accountable for their decisions.

One way to achieve this balance is through the introduction of independent medical experts or arbitration panels that can independently evaluate injuries, providing transparency while still protecting athletes from exploitation. This system could also provide guidelines for how information should be communicated to the public in a timely manner, ensuring that fans get reliable updates on injury status.

The debate on whether professional sports people should have the right to privacy and confidentiality on their injury status is ongoing. On one side of the argument, proponents argue that it should be a basic human right for athletes to keep their medical information private.

On the other side, opponents argue that injury information should be fair game for the public, and that keeping it confidential would limit transparency and accountability in the sports world.

So what is the best solution? It seems that both sides have valid points, and there are pros and cons to both approaches.