Should HIPPA and patient privacy include professional athletes health history?

Since I’m doing a podcast on foot and ankle injuries of professional athletes, mainly baseball, I thought I would discuss my feelings on privacy of health information in athletes.

I hear, see and read about it almost everyday.  Player “XYZ” is getting an MRI next week for a ankle sprain?  Or “player XYZ” is having a visit with Dr. Andrews which usually means TJ surgery in the near future.  It is part of the games.  It is human nature.  We are not perfect and will sustain to injuries, especially, at the speed and competition of a professional athlete.  My feeling is that those athletes are in a different category then the average person both financially and physically.  It is part of the entertainment business once your are past the collegiate years.

The teams that they play on have their own HIPAA (health insurance portability and accountability Act) regulations. It allows there coaches and front office personnel make important financial decisions. Would you sign a player for millions if you didn’t know if he had chronic plantar fascitiis AKA, Albert Pujols? As a foot doctor, the St. Louis Cardinals did the right thing by letting him go!  Or knowing that the second baseman from the Boston Red Sox had a finger injury lingering all year?

But I see the one reason a player may not want to disclose their injury would be to not let the opponent know that they have a weakness. Here are my thoughts on privacy of professional athletes health records.

Yes, we need to know why those athletes are hurt. Even from a physician who supports HIPPA in his own practice. Players make more money than the average person, a significant amount of more money. The average mlb salary for 2013 was up 5.4% to $3.39 million. The average US wage in 2012 was $42,498. The minimum wage for a MLB player in 2014 is $500,000! That’s earnings that an average American will take 12+ years to reach. The fans, who pay most of their salaries, spend millions on going to games, buying memorabilia, playing daily, weekly, yearly and fantasy leagues. I don’t include gambling on teams wins or loses in Vegas because fantasy is more of a strategy and takes educated thought processes by calculating statistics and not as much luck driven (except head to head football and baseball points leagues) but that’s another issue we will not get into.

If I’m going to spend over $300 (See Yankees vs Cardinals May 27, 2014) for one ticket, $10 for a beer, $6 for a hot dog (well I’m a vegetarian so for me a veggie burger or cheese pizza will do just fine), etc, then I want to know if my player will be performing that day and if they are not, then why.

As long as the disclosed injury is related to their performance on the field or court then I see no problem of releasing patient health information in professional athletes. I don’t want to know if they have a STD or are a diabetic or have cancer or other type of autoimmune disease or chronic internal disease.

With my fantasy baseball season starting in a few weeks, I’m always trying to get an edge on my competition with the latest news and information on the players.  I just want to win my league and know the truth that pertains to their statistical success and of course my home-team winning too.

And in more WTF news our Fantasy Baseball foot and ankle injury report….

Listen to our podcast to get some information on ingrown toenails in baseball players and how that might or might not affect their performance.  Learn about how we treat ingrown toenails and see photo of Bryce Harpers ingrown toenail that he tweeted last year and what to expect if a professional athlete has one and what is the recovery time.  We discuss player injury status of Toronto Blue Jay’s short stop Jose Reyes’s ankle, Geovany Soto recent foot surgery, and more foot and ankle sports injuries to help you in your fantasy season preparation.

Should professional athletes health information be public or private?

by Dr. Dennis M. Timko

Dr. Dennis M. Timko

Dr. Dennis M. Timko


Dr. Dennis Timko, is a podiatrist in the St. Louis, Eureka, MO. area. Dr. Timko specializes in diabetic foot care, foot surgery, AFOs, and orthotics. Dr. Timko is the solo owner of Arch City Foot & Ankle, which has been in business since 2003.