NFL Player Health: The Role of Club Doctors

How can we ensure that National Football League players receive excellent health care they can trust from providers who are as free from conflicts of interest as realistically possible? In the lead article in this special report, authors from The Football Players Health Study at Harvard University argue that the structure of the relationship between NFL players and club doctors is inherently flawed, that it “forces club doctors to have obligations to two parties—the club and the player—and to make difficult judgments about when one party’s interests must yield to another’s.” Warning that the conflict of interest threatens players’ health, the authors propose that ties between the club doctor and club be largely severed and that the doctor’s role be refashioned “into one of singular loyalty to the player-patient.” Seven commentaries, including pieces by current and former NFL players and by the NFL Physicians Society, round out the discussion, some expanding on and some arguing against the views and recommendations presented in the lead article. The article and a response to the commentaries by the article’s authors are open access.




A Proposal to Address Club Doctors’ Conflicts of Interest and Promote Player Trust
I. Glenn Cohen, Holly Fernandez Lynch, and Christopher R. Deubert


Players’ Doctors: The Roles Should Be Very Clear
Arthur L. Caplan, Brendan Parent, and Lee H. Igel

Lessons for the NFL from Workers’ Compensation
Richard Diana

Health Care for NFL Players: Upholding Physician Standards and Enhancing the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Being Right Isn’t Always Enough: NFL Culture and Team Physicians’ Conflict of Interest
Ross McKinney Jr.

Preventing Conflicts of Interest of NFL Team Physicians
Mark A. Rothstein

The Dual Role of NFL Team Doctors
Marvin Washington

NFL Physicians: Committed to Excellence in Patient-Player Care
The National Football League Physicians Society

A Response to Commentaries
I. Glenn Cohen, Holly Fernandez Lynch, and Christopher R. Deubert