Being Right Isn't Always Enough: NFL Culture and Team Physicians' Conflict of Interest.
The job of being a sports team physician is difficult, regardless of the level, from high school to the National Football League. When a sports league receives the intensity of attention leveled at the NFL, though, a difficult occupation becomes even more challenging. Even for the NFL players themselves, players' best interests regarding health issues are often unclear. Football players are, as a lot, highly competitive individuals. They want to win, and they want to help the team win. It's a warrior culture, and respect is earned by playing hurt. Should the team physician respect a player's autonomy when this means allowing him to make choices that might lead to further personal harm, especially if the player's choices align with the preference of the coach and management? Or should the doctor set limits and balance the player's choices with a paternalistic set of constraints, perhaps in opposition to both the player's and the team's desires? Simplification of this web of conflicts of interest is the goal of the model proposed by Glenn Cohen, Holly Lynch, and Christopher Deubert. In my view, their proposal is very clever. As an idea, it meets the expectations its authors set, namely, to minimize the problem of conflict of interest in the delivery of health care services to NFL football players. The ethics of the proposal align well with certain moral goals, like treating the player's interests more fairly and treating the player's health as an end instead of as the means to an end. But will such a proposal ever make headway in the pressurized environment of the NFL?
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