World Facts

How Can a Professional Athlete Fail a Medical?

There are a variety of ways that athletes can fail a medical.

After the completion of a sporting season, most sports “open” their transfer windows. For some sports, such as soccer, midway through the season also presents an opportunity to sign a new player. The interested club negotiates with the club of the player they want to acquire. If a deal is made between the two parties, the player undergoes a medical supervised by the buying club’s doctors. The athlete then proceeds to sign a contract with the club after passing the medical. If the athlete is deemed to fail the medical testing, the deal fails.

The Medical

There are no set guidelines that have been written and accepted by all sports as grounds for determining whether or not an athlete has passed or failed a medical. Different sports clubs have different guidelines and procedures for determining the outcome of a medical. However, a majority of the sports clubs prefer giving their medical staff at least 24 hours with an athlete so that a comprehensive report is obtained. For this reason, sports club prefer reaching an agreement with the selling club days before the deadline day of the transfer window. The medical report is then used to make a decision on whether to allow the athlete to sign or cancel the deal.

Due to the lengthy nature of negotiations between clubs, most agreements are not reached until the deadline day. This situation usually presents a unique challenge to the medical staff. The staff are forced to conduct a hasty medical and deliver a report. The pressure is intensified if the player has a high profile.

A high profile player is too valuable to let go, and most clubs hasten the process so that a contract is signed. Such players may receive better offers midway through a medical, so the staff work fast. This pressure from high profile athletes is present regardless of the period of the transfer window. The problem is compounded if the deal is reached on the deadline day. The rule state that all deals must be completed by midnight and paperwork submitted by both clubs, otherwise the deal falls through.

In such cases, the doctors may miss an issue in a player thus the risk is increased. The medical team will then have more challenges in ensuring that the player stays fit in case of a missed issue. Sometimes the selling club or the athlete might not disclose everything about their medical history.

The Testing

Universally, several tests are done including a test of the heart and the general health of the athlete, cardiac screening, and sometimes a urine examination may also be done. The medics also assess the muscles and skeleton and try to determine the risk of injury in places like lower back or pelvis. A test is also done on the muscles and how they move to help gauge injury risks. Other tests are for body fat and speed.

Ultimately, the needs of the club come first. A player may not fulfil these tests but still signed anyway. If the risk is considered too high, the player will fail the medical.

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