The Legality of Biometric Screening of Professional Athletes image

The American Journal of Bioethics , 2017, Vol. 17, Issue 1
Jessica L. Roberts, I. Glenn Cohen (Faculty Director), Christopher R. Deubert (Senior Law & Ethics Associate) & Holly Fernandez Lynch (Executive Direc

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In their thoughtful article, “Tracking U.S. Professional Athletes: The Ethics of Biometric Technologies,” Katrina Karkazis and Jennifer Fishman do an excellent job of outlining the concerns associated with the widespread adoption of biometric technologies in professional sports. They rightfully note that in the United States the use of biometric data outside of health care and research remains largely unregulated. The authors assert that this absence of regulation creates “risks of exploitation, coercion, and employee discrimination” (Karkazis and Fishman 2017, 46).

Several aspiring professional athletes have seen their careers cut short by biometric screening. In 2013, Star Lotulelei's status in the National Football League (NFL) draft plummeted following an irregular electrocardiogram (EKG) (Rosenthal 2013). Likewise, in 2014, Isaiah Austin withdrew from the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome (Associated Press 2014). And in 2016, three NFL hopefuls—Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack, and Reggie Ragland—all ended up second-round draft picks due to suspected medical problems (Smith 2016a; Smith 2016b).

Athletes who are already playing professionally are also vulnerable. The team doctors for the New York Giants encouraged David Wilson to retire because of his spinal stenosis, even though some experts believe that the condition does not create any heightened risk of spinal-cord injury (Schonbrun 2014). And the Chicago Bulls refused to resign Eddy Curry without a genetic test because of concerns that Curry had a potentially deadly genetic heart condition (Rice 2006). 

Yet does the law offer any protection? [...]

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bioethics biotechnology health law policy holly fernandez lynch i. glenn cohen regulation research