Statement by the NFLPS in Response to the
Hastings Center Report on NFL Player Health: The Role of a Club Doctor
(November 21, 2016) “The National Football League Physicians Society (NFLPS) read the article with disappointment. In spite of the authors’ suggestions, NFL physicians are accomplished medical professionals who abide by the highest ethical standards in providing treatment to all of their patients, including those who play in the NFL. It defies logic for the authors to have not engaged experienced and active NFL physicians from the very start of their effort to explore, challenge and recommend significant alterations to the delivery of healthcare to NFL players.
“As troubling as this article is from so many perspectives, it does represent an opportunity for the NFLPS to set the record straight and call attention to the excellent quality of care NFL players receive. In addition, it represents an opportunity to expose the extraordinarily weak evidence presented in the article and to refute the baseless allegations that challenge the high ethical standards of NFL physicians.
“In an effort to provide context, NFL physicians’ training, subspecialty medical and surgical expertise, and reputations in patient care, clinical leadership and medical professionalism are largely unparalleled in the world of Sports Medicine.
“Combined, NFLPS physicians have authored more than 5,400 scientific articles, presented more than 9,000 scientific presentations, hold more than 130 active academic appointments in prestigious medical centers throughout our country, and care for more than 700 professional sports teams in professional leagues outside of the NFL. Every NFL physician has been selected because NFL clubs want the best possible physicians to provide care for their players.
“We do what is in our patients’ best interest. Doing anything less in the NFL environment of high-definition, uber-scrutiny would not only be immediately recognized and exposed by players, agents, second opinion physicians, the media, etc., but would also be self-defeating. Our patients are protected by a union with its own medical director and medical advisory boards – as well as a team of lawyers who are not hesitant to voice concerns where appropriate.
“While the premise that NFL physicians have two primary roles is oversimplified, we do not contest it. The foremost responsibility of NFL physicians is to provide medical care for the players. There must be a factual basis to support an allegation of a ‘conflict of interest.’
“The 2016 AP Survey that the authors also cite as addressing the issue of players’ distrust in club physicians found that 47 of 100 respondents agreed that “NFL teams, coaches and team doctors have players’ best interests in mind when it comes to injuries and player health”, 39 disagreed and 14 players either were not sure or did not respond to the question. These responses certainly do not provide evidence of an overwhelming player distrust of their club doctors; the majority of responders, in fact, express trust in teams, coaches and team physicians when it comes to their health. Should trust become an issue, players have a right to a second opinion (encouraged and often facilitated by NFL physicians) as well as a right to the surgeon of their choice (paid for by their clubs) — a fact that the authors only acknowledge in a footnote.
“We we are true to our professional and ethical standards and to the Hippocratic Oath in treating all of our patients, including those who happen to work within the confines of the NFL, with the utmost of professional integrity. We do not accept the authors’ unsubstantiated opinion that a theoretical conflict of interest by definition represents a real conflict that destroys players’ trust in their team physician and jeopardizes patients’ health.”
Contact: Amy Weiss, for the NFLPS , Amy@Weisspublicaffairs.com