Injury Talk May Soon Violate Law
Thu Sep 26,12:41 PM ET
By DOUGLAS PILS, AP Sports Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Some college football coaches refrain from talking about their players' injuries in a strategic move. Next season, speaking about them could be against the law.


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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, passed in 1996, goes into effect in April and could affect how much coaches know about players' injuries and whether the university can report those injuries to the media.

Alabama coach Dennis Franchione has already adopted the policy. It's why few outside the Crimson Tide trainer's office know for sure whether quarterback Tyler Watts will play Saturday against Arkansas.

Watts sprained his left foot in the Tide's victory over Southern Mississippi last week and didn't play the rest of the game.

"I don't see the advantage in exposing our players' every little bump and bruise to everybody," Franchione said Wednesday. "There's nothing to be gained by it. I think it offers a little bit of protection to them as we go through the season."

Under the act, which was signed by President Clinton ( news - web sites), institutions could lose federal funding for disclosing an athlete's medical information.

Arkansas sports information director Kevin Trainor said he and his SEC counterparts started discussing the law and its ramifications during their spring meetings. No formal guidelines for the conference were adopted then, so the discussion of injuries is left up to each university this season.

"It's my understanding from talk going around that the health insurance act may change the landscape on that a little bit," Trainor said. "We're just going to wait to see what comes out of it."

The act was designed to protect individual's insurance coverage by keeping their health history private when they changed jobs. Its effect on college athletics is an unintended consequence.

Charles Bloom, the SEC's associate commissioner for media relations, said the conference still is trying to figure out if the law will apply to college athletics.

"Right now there's so much haziness as to how it would pertain to us," Bloom said. "It wasn't meant to affect college sports. We'll wait and see and if it doesn't affect us, then all the colleges will go back to what they've been doing in the past."

Some colleges aren't waiting for the law, Franchione's policy aside. Texas won't report on the status of its No. 1 receiver Roy Williams, who appeared to injure his hamstring last week against North Carolina. The university won't discuss his injury and it won't make Williams available to talk about it.

In Florida's win over Tennessee last week, the Gators wouldn't provide injury information about running back Earnest Graham or quarterback Rex Grossman to CBS' television crew.

Bloom said he doesn't have a timetable for when the conference will know if the law applies to college athletics, but the law goes into effect on April 14, 2003, so time is running out.

"It's really out of our hands," he said. "If the federal law says we can't report injuries, then that's what we'll do. Since it's a federal law, we'll just take our orders."

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