Sports Medicine Conflicts: Team Physicians vs. Athlete-Patients

27 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2005 Last revised: 16 Oct 2015

See all articles by Steve Calandrillo

Steve Calandrillo

University of Washington - School of Law


Team physicians for professional sports franchises face a conflict of interest created by the competing loyalties they owe to the team that employs them and to the athlete patient they must treat. Marketing agreements under which physicians pay significant sums of money to be designated as the team's official healthcare provider exacerbate this conflict. These marketing arrangements call into question the independent judgment of team physicians and cause players to question the quality of care they receive. This paper explores several solutions to the growing problem of conflicts between athletes and team doctors in order to enhance players' trust in the medical care they receive. First, to remove the dual loyalty problem that team physicians face, professional sports leagues or players' unions should hire medical providers directly - as opposed to having individual teams employ and provide them. If this fundamental employment alteration proves impossible, physician groups should enter into explicit agreements with sports franchises asserting their independence, and professional sports leagues should mandate that physicians disclose all potential conflicts of interest to the players they treat. Finally, states might consider exceptions to the exclusive remedy provisions of workers compensation laws to ensure that professional athletes have legal recourse when they suffer the deleterious effects of these conflicts.

Keywords: Sports, sports medicine, team physician, conflict, athlete, doctor-patient

JEL Classification: D74, I11, I1, J5, K00, K31, L2

Suggested Citation

Calandrillo, Steve, Sports Medicine Conflicts: Team Physicians vs. Athlete-Patients. St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 185-210 (2005), Available at SSRN:

Steve Calandrillo (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195-3020
United States
206-685-2403 (Phone)


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