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NFL doctors should be loyal to players, not teams

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As concerns for the health of current and former players in the National Football League have been mounting, a new report explores the importance of players receiving health care free from conflicts of interest experienced by club doctors and athletic trainers.

The current structure forces these doctors and trainers 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. In the Hastings Center Report article, I. Glenn Cohen, Holly Fernandez Lynch, and Christopher R. Deubert of the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University propose to re­solve this problem of dual loyalty by largely severing the doctor's and trainer's ties with the club and refashioning their role into one of singular loyalty to the player-patient.

"The CBA [collective bargaining agreement], existing ethical standards, and current laws do not adequately address the structural conflicts because they do nothing to address the problem that club doctors wear two hats, providing services simultaneously to players and clubs," the authors said in the article. "Our recommendation to separate these two roles currently played by club doctors and to establish a new group of medical professionals dedicated exclusively to players can resolve the structural problems in a major way while being responsive to practical realities."

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