The League

Dr. A. Brion Gardner
Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. A. Brion Gardner

Staff Orthopedic Surgeon at Camp LeJeune

Behind the Secrets


There is a great deal of secrecy amongst NFL franchises when it comes to player injuries. It remains to be seen whether these teams are too secretive or just don't divulge the information fast enough for thirsty sports journalists and anxious fantasy football owners. Each team likely weighs a host of considerations prior to announcing the status of an injured player, especially high profile or key players.

First, each medical team is bound by the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It essentially requires that an individual receiving medical treatment must offer consent to the release of his medical information. In the event a player desires to keep his injury private (or secret), there may be a delay in the release of information.

Second, the nature and severity of injuries is not always instantly apparent. There is a large spectrum of injuries that range from strains to sprains, contusions to tears, and fractures (broken bones) to dislocations. A preliminary evaluation and diagnosis may be offered, however, this may change after further testing has been conducted, i.e. an x-ray, CAT scan or the ever wonderful MRI scan.

After a definitive diagnosis has been made, it must be determined the severity of the injury, probable period of recovery and likely return to playing. The period of recovery and the time at which a player returns to the game are not necessarily the same time frame. A less severe injury may allow a player to return to playing while still recovering from the pain or loss of range of motion. Other more severe injuries obviously may require a more extended period of recovery.

In any event, the teams have to consider the risk to the player, the risk to their chances of success, and the financial impact it may have in returning a player too early, or holding him out too long. This breeds the inherent secrecy that most teams employ. Overall, however, in today's 24 hour media and internet society, the information seems to surface pretty quickly... whether the team wants that information disclosed or not!

By Dr. A. Brion Gardner  |  October 22, 2008; 12:30 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Couldn't the players put an end to all this by suing the NFl for violation of their HIPPA Rights? An employer can't force any employee to reveal health information if they don't wish to provide that information, regardless of how much their getting paid and any union contract mandating such is a violation of federal law.

Posted by: Charles | October 22, 2008 2:56 PM

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