The Sport Ethic Versus Medical Ethics: The Management Of Medical Confidentiality In English Professional Football

A seminar as part of the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre Public Seminar Series

Given by: Professor Ivan Waddington, Visiting Professor at the University of Chester, and former Director of the Centre for Research into Sport and Society at Leicester University

Lecture Theatre B01
Clore Management Centre Building
Torrington Square
Birkbeck College
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX

Tuesday 22nd May 2018 at 6pm

For directions click here.

Attendance at the event is free but you need TO REGISTER.



The presentation examines one of the major challenges in the practice of sports medicine: medical confidentiality. Previous research has noted that medical confidentiality in sport is often compromised by the doctor’s relationship to the club. How do doctors and physiotherapists deal with delicate issues involving doctor-patient confidentiality? How much information about players’ health is conveyed to the team manager? Is such information conveyed to the player’s injury status, or does it include information which the manager might want but which is normally considered confidential to the doctor-patient relationship, such as information relating to the player’s lifestyle?

An earlier study carried out for the Professional Footballers Association documented a “catalogue of bad employment practice” including many breaches of medical confidentiality by club doctors and physiotherapists, after which the Football Association introduced guidelines relating to medical confidentiality for club medical staff. But what impact have those guidelines had on clinician behaviour?

Drawing on interview and questionnaire data with club doctors and physios working in English professional football clubs, this presentation reports on a follow-up study which explores whether, and to what degree, ethical compliance has improved since the introduction of the FA guidelines. It demonstrates that medical ethical practice continues to be very variable from club to club and suggests that there is a need to augment existing confidentiality policies with more structurally oriented approaches to ensure both professional autonomy and medical ethical compliance in sport.


Ivan Waddington was until his retirement Director of the Centre for Research into Sport and Society at Leicester University. Since his retirement from full-time work he has been a Visiting Professor at University College Dublin and the University of Chester and he is currently Visiting Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo. He has published extensively in the sociology of health and the sociology of sport and much of his work has focused on the interface between sport and health; in particular, his work has focused around social aspects of pain and injury in sport, the social organisation of sports medicine, sport and public health policy and, above all, drugs in sport.  His books include Sport, Health and Drugs (2000), Pain and Injury in Sport (with Sigmund Loland and Berit Skirstad, 2006), An Introduction to Drugs in Sport (with Andy Smith, 2009), Doing Real World Research in Sports Studies (with Andy Smith, 2014) and the Routledge Handbook of Drugs and Sport (with Verner Møller and John Hoberman 2015). His work has been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Flemish and Japanese.


  •  “The social management of medical ethics in sport: confidentiality in English professional football” (with A. Scott and D. Malcolm), International Review for the Sociology of Sport,  2017, DOI:10.1177/1012690217733678. 
  • “The provision of medical care in English professional football: an update” (2017)  (with D. Malcolm and A. Scott), Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport,
  • “Jobs for the boys? A study of the employment of club doctors and physiotherapists in “English professional football”, Soccer and Society, 3 (3), 2002, 51-64.
  • “Management of medical confidentiality in English professional football clubs: some ethical problems and issues” (with M . Roderick), British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36 (2), 2002, 118-123. “Methods of appointment and qualifications of club doctors and physiotherapist in English professional football: some problems and issues” (with M. Roderick and R. Naik, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 35 (1), 2001, 48-53. 
  •  “Playing hurt: managing injuries in English professional football” (with M. Roderick and G Parker)  International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 35 (2), 2000, 165-180.

Contact details

Further details on the Birkbeck Sport Business Seminar Series


Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

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