Steve P. Calandrillo, Sports Medicine Conflicts: Team Physicians vs. Athlete-Patients, 50 St. Louis U. L.J. 185 (2005), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/136
Saint Louis University Law Journal
advertising, conflict of interest, marketing, sports team physicians, workers' compensation
Team physicians for professional sports franchises face a conflict of interest created by the competing loyalties they owe to the team that employs them and to the athlete-patient they must treat. Marketing agreements under which physicians pay significant sums of money to be designated as the team's "official healthcare provider" exacerbate this conflict. These marketing arrangements call into question the independent judgment of team physicians and cause players to question the quality of care they receive.
This paper explores several solutions to the growing conflicts between athletes and team doctors with the goal of enhancing players' trust in the medical care they receive. First, to remove the dual loyalty problem faced by team physicians, professional sports leagues or players' unions should hire medical providers directly—as opposed to having individual teams employ and provide them. If this fundamental employment change proves impossible, physician groups should enter into explicit agreements with sports franchises that assert the groups' independence, and professional sports leagues should mandate that physicians disclose all potential conflicts of interest to the players they treat.
In addition, sports leagues could ban physicians from advertising their affiliation with teams to alleviate the problem of doctors engaging in bidding wars to service athletes at below-market rates in order to gain a "PR" edge on their competition. Finally, states might consider exceptions to the exclusive remedy provisions of workers' compensation laws to ensure that professional athletes have legal recourse when they suffer the deleterious effects of these conflicts. This conflict of interest between team physicians and the athlete-patients they treat must be remedied by aggressively implementing policies and procedures that change the current relationship between healthcare providers, teams, and their players.
Part I of this Paper examines the various duties that a team physician owes her athlete-patient. Part II details the nature of the relationship between teams, physicians, and players, and Part III explains how these relationships cause conflicts of interest to arise. Finally, Part IV outlines policy solutions that would remedy the diverging interests that team doctors face.
Contributed to a symposium on Sports Medicine: Doping, Disability Health Quality.