Denny Helwig Verbatim

Head athletic trainer Dennis Helwig addressed the media monday at UW's weekly news conference. He discussed the HIPPA and FERPA acts and how they will affect the privacy of UW student-athletes.

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Opening Statement: "Thank you very much. I don't know if I have the swing for clean-up, but we'll see what we can do here. Basically the health insurance portability and accountability act came into being last year, and there was lot of discussion about this as it leads to privacy in regards to athlete's injuries and other things. It actually became enacted in April of last year and there was a lot of discussion ahead of that. We took a look at it for what it meant to our athletes and this university, and there always was a privacy act that protected student athletes called FERPA. It's the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This has always been in place, and I think traditionally has been extremely violated in regards to the athlete's rights. I think with FERPA coming on-line, its brought everybody's antennas up, including our athletes in terms of what their privacy means to them."

"So we embarked on looking at this, had discussions with administrators, discussions with many of our different coaches. We had a committee together that also included the university attorneys. We took some recommendations to our student athlete advisory board and asked what their comfort level was in regards to the release to the public and what they would authorize us to release to the public. Essentially, if you look at all these acts, what it basically means is that each individual has the rights to release their own private information, and especially as it relates to their health and well-being. For us to then release it to anybody else, we have to have their written authorization. It would have been very difficult for us to write an authorization and ask our athletes to sign it, in which a lot of them would not sign it and we would have to keep track of who signed and who didn't sign before we would come and talk to any members of the public or to yourselves. Basically it came down to this, the comfort level of the student athlete, that we could get 100 percent sign-off by the student athlete, and the medical component of release would be to identify the individual, and the fact that they're either injured or ill. If they're injured, the body part only, and a statement on estimated time to return to action. That is all that we're asking our athletes to sign off on in terms of us being able to release that to you. The medical staff will share specific information with head coaches and so forth, but no one can share additional updates, analysis or rehabilitation information with anybody else, including the news media. The individual, however, has control over their own information; they can release whatever they want. But we've instructed staff, teammates, and anybody else surrounding the athlete to refrain from any comments about medical condition of any other athlete. That's simply it."

So when there are football injuries, how do we go about getting that information? "That information will be available through sports information. I assume that in Barry's (Alvarez) post-game press-conference he will be making those statements if he knows them in regards to the individuals, the injury, what body part is affected, and to that, the extent that we can, the approximate time of return is. Now any updates will probably be in regards to the return times, but anything other than that, we would have to get further authorization from the athlete."

How about now with Erasmus James and Matt Schabert? "Specifically, Barry (Alvarez) would release what their approximate time to return if they're injured."

Are coaches compelled to release that information? "They are not compelled to release it, but if they make any statements about injuries, that's all they can make statements about. They certainly can do less, yes."
 


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