Sunday, February 05, 2012
Imagine a world with AALS Injury Reports
Under the NFL system of mandatory injury reporting, players are listed based on the likelihood that they will play: out, doubtful (25%), questionable (50-50), or probable (75%). The report also must list the area of the injury (e.g., "ankle"). The system was created in 1947 in response to allegations that players had provided gamblers with secret "insider" information about injuries that were likely to influence the game.
Though coaches are notorious for the gamesmanship involved in using the injury reports - e.g., Tom Brady was listed on the injury report every week for over two years without ever missing a start - the NFL Injury Report survives today, defended by the League as necessary for the integrity of the game and claiming that such data is in the public interest.
Who needs to know whether Rob Gronkowski's injury is really a high ankle sprain or whether he walked with a limp or not?
People betting on football. People playing fantasy football (though most fantasy football seasons end before the Super Bowl). The media. Sport fans. In our football-obsessed run up to the Biggest Game of the Year, who doesn't need to know?
What about the athletes? Are they better off in a system that requires mandatory reporting - and public sharing - of injury information? Sports betting, fantasy football, greater media attention all increase the NFL's revenue, from which athletes will be paid. At the same time, athletes may have good reason to NOT want to share their personal medical information. They may wish to avoid being a target for other athletes (e.g., Kyle Williams having a history of concussions). The injury may be embarrassing in nature (e.g., George Brett having hemorrhoids years ago) or may have occurred in an embarrassing manner (e.g., Dustin Penner injuring his back while eating pancakes).
I don't think the discourse or expectation that athletes are not entitled to privacy about their own bodies or medical information stems from the NFL Injury Reports. I think the continued existence of the reporting requirement (albeit with wink/nod strategic non-compliance) and the lack of athlete interest in bargaining to change the rules is all due to the norm that athletes should be viewed as the sports industry's performance machines, viewed as a collective of body parts rather than people with privacy rights.
What other industries force this bargain on its employees where personal health or medical information is deemed public interest? Top ranking government officials (the President, SCOTUS Justices, etc.)? Actors when their injuries affect filming? Other celebrities? Am I missing any others? Can you imagine if law professors had the equivalent injury reporting requirement?
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I would imagine a public interest (or at least, investor interest) exists regarding major medical issues facing key personnel of certain celebrity fueled companies. Think of Steve Jobs at Apple. He wasn't terribly forthcoming about his illness in the early days, but rumors of his ill health seemed to cause some fluctuations in the price of Apple stock. (Interestingly, though, his demise hasn't dampened enthusiasm for the stock or Apple products.) Similarly, I imagine investors would want to know about the health of Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, Martha Stewart, and so on -- the viability of their respective firms probably depends on their health (at least a lot more than the viability of McDonalds, Target, etc. depends on the health of their CEOs).
Posted by: Rob Mikos | Feb 5, 2012 12:14:04 PM
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