Last month I highlighted the Manitoba Combative Sports Commission's practice of releasing minimal information when dealing with fighter injuries. I discussed why this is likely the legally correct thing to do not to mention a practice that is in the fighter's best interests.
Moving a few Provinces west, today I look at the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission which chooses to provide somewhat more detail when releasing official event results. To take the latest example, following AFC 19 the Edmonton Commission's official results hand out an indefinite suspension to Ryan Ford who won the AFC's welterweight title via rear naked choke. He apparently fractured his right arm in the first round before battling on to a 5th round victory. The official results specifically note that Ryan suffered a "fractured right forearm". This information has been shared with other Commissions and also, I am advised, various media outlets.
Ryan Ford has not been shy about his injury openly discussing it at TopMMANews.com and even releasing a picture of the X-ray depicting the fracture:
The AFC 19 official results released by the ECSC also highlight another right wrist injury requiring an X-ray which I don't see being publicly discussed by the fighter involved.
While fighters are free to openly discuss the details of their injuries are Commissions free to do so as well? Is it legally ok for the ESCS to share this information with the media? Probably not. Here's why -
Edmonton's Combative Sports Bylaw deals with releasing injury information. Section 6(4)(d) requires licensed fighters to consent to the release of suspensions reading as follows:
the Contestant consents to the Commission notifying the Contestant’s governing bodies and other commissions regulating Combative Sports that a medical suspension was issued and the duration of the medical suspension.
Section 15 goes on to specifically allow the Commission to report medical suspensions. The section reads as follows:
The Executive Director must forward the results of an Event, including all medical suspensions issued to Contestants, to the relevant governing bodies and other commissions regulating Combative Sports not more than forty-eight (48) hours after the Event
There are a few points of interest here. The legislation requires medical suspensions to be released, however, injury details do not have to be released. While the public always likes more information, unless a government organization is compelled to share such information they should be cautious in doing so. Second, the Bylaw only allows the commission to share this with "relevant governing bodies and other commissions regulating Combative Sports". An exception for media is not made.
Alberta, like most of Canada, has Provincial privacy legislation on the books. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act creates strict requirements about what information government organizations are free to share. This legislation specifically prohibits personal information being shared with others except in limited circumstances. Section 17 of the act reads as follows:
"The head of a public body must refuse to disclose personal
information to an applicant if the disclosure would be an
unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy"
Medical details are presumed to be "an unreasonable invasion" of a fighter' privacy with section section 17(4) of the Act stating as follows:
A disclosure of personal information is presumed to be an
unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy if
(a) the personal information relates to a medical, psychiatric or
psychological history, diagnosis, condition, treatment or
I reached out to Edmonton Commissioner Pat Reid for feedback on his elected approach. He advises as follows:
I like our process - like I said "protecting fighters against themselves" we have caught LOTS of fighters trying to come here who are already injured, hoping to get by the weigh in and then get in the cage and with the first punch they claim an injury and therefore medical treatment locally (free).
So I think it makes sense to let other commissions' ringside physicians know what to look out for.
Another compelling (supportive) factor to our approach - the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) makes public any positive drug test results (they even end up on public lists and in the paper), so if it is good enough for the "World" body (giving out personal medical information to inform others) then it's good enough for us.
While there may be some valid points here these likely do not get around provincial legislative privacy protections. Canadian Commissions should be cautious in releasing injury details the public at large. While medical suspensions must be shared with other commissions and while other commissions are entitled to information with enough detail to allow them to make an informed decision about whether a fighter should be licensed, the public at large should not be given this information by a Commission who only get access to these confidential health details by virtue of their statutory powers.