A new report from Harvard Law School proposes drastic changes in the way health care is administered in the NFL, urging the nation's most popular sports league to upend its system of medicine and untangle the loyalties of the doctors and trainers charged with treating players.
Asserting that the long-standing current structure has inherent conflicts of interest, the 493-page report outlines a new system in which a team's medical staff is devoted solely to players' interests and no longer reports to team management or coaches.
"The intersection of club doctors' dual obligations creates significant legal and ethical quandaries that can threaten player health," the report states.
The two-year study bills itself as the first of its kind in "examining the complicated and often-paradoxical universe of stakeholders that may influence NFL player health." The NFL strongly took issue with the methodology and conclusions drawn by the Harvard researchers.
On Nov. 1, Jeffrey Miller, the NFL's executive vice president of health and safety, sent the researchers a 33-page response in which he rejected any suggestion that NFL doctors have conflicts of interest and called the proposed change "untenable and impractical." He said researchers have called for "several unrealistic recommendations that would not improve player care."
The report "cites no evidence that a conflict of interest actually exists," Miller wrote. ". . . The Report identified no incident in which team physicians were alleged to have ignored the health status of players, failed to adhere to patient confidentiality consent procedures, or made recommendations to clubs that were contrary to the health of players."