In an article posted on ESPN’s website about a month ago (ESPN Article), the writer discussed her opinion about how college football should have a uniform policy, like the professional sports leagues, requiring athletes’ injuries to be reported to the public. She mentioned how coaches are not forthcoming with the statuses’ of their stars players for selfish reasons and that this puts their athletes in danger. Her major assumption for this secrecy is that the release of injury information gives the teams’ competitors an advantage. What this writer is mistaken about is that, among many other unethical reasons, releasing any information about an athlete’s injury is a violation of HIPAA.
HIPAA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 to protect health insurance coverage for workers and their families when a job is lost or changed, to establish national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employers, and most importantly to address security and privacy of health data and records. This means that an injury and any treatment provided to an athlete, in this case, may only be disclosed or shared if there is written consent by the athlete to release the information. Recently, with the growth of social-media to society, this extremely important policy has been overlooked in an effort to keep the fans informed.
Athlete/patient privacy is extremely important and must be protected, which is one of the many reasons HIPAA is legally backed. There is not a single person in the world that would want their medical records posted for everyone to read. It is private information and should stay private, especially for college athletes, who in some cases are not even adults yet.
Now you may be asking, “How does the NFL, NBA, and MLB, along with other professional sports organizations, get away with having a required injury report?” And the answer is that professional players are getting paid and have agreed that their rights belong to their professional sports organization. The athletes have to wear what they’re told, do what they’re told, and be at certain places when they are told and if the organization doesn’t like what they see on or off the field the athlete can be fired. On the other hand, collegiate athletes are not being paid, and while technically, college athletes have certain things required of them too, but as long as they are not disobeying university policy, the athlete can not lose their scholarship based on athletic performance. This is why professional sports have the required injury reports, because the athletes have given up all say in their careers in exchange for millions of dollars.
HIPAA was put in place to protect both athletes and non-athletes alike and was not meant to be seen as an excuse for a coach not to release injury information. By law, collegiate coaches are not allowed to disclose any information about an athlete’s injury or health history without the written consent of the athlete. Contrary to popular belief and the views’ of this ESPN reporter, the coaches are not trying to be secretive about their players or gain a competitive advantage, they are just following the law and protecting individual privacies.