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Sports medicine, confidentiality and the press
  1. Bill Ribbans1,
  2. Hannah Ribbans2,
  3. Craig Nightingale2,
  4. Michael McNamee3
  1. 1School of Health, The University of Northampton, Northampton, UK
  2. 2School of Medicine, Imperial College, London, UK
  3. 3College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor WJ Ribbans, The County Clinic, 57 Billing Road, Northampton NN1 5DB, UK; billribbs{at}


Objective To analyse athletes' medical information disclosed by English newspapers.

Methods Ten daily national newspapers, nine Sunday newspapers and one local newspaper were studied during March 2010 for media releases relating to the medical conditions of athletes.

Results Three hundred and thirty-three newspapers were reviewed revealing 5640 specific bulletins regarding athletes' health. Daily national newspapers averaged 18.72 daily bulletins, Sunday newspapers 11.86 and one local newspaper reviewed 6.07. The frequency with which various sports had their athletes' medical details published was analysed. Football accounted for 83.78%. The information source in 77.32% of articles is not clearly stated. The patient was only responsible in 6.10% of cases, where the source of attribution is clear.

Conclusions English newspapers are replete with athletes' medical details, with football dominant. A significant risk to clinicians' professional status exists if they collude to release the un-consented confidential medical information to those with no direct involvement in athletes' medical care. Athletes' education as to their rights as patients and to sports medicine professionals as to their obligations are urgently required.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • ▸ References to this paper are available online at

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