There is a debate raging within rugby circles about the level of disclosure that comes with injured pros and their medical information. The most recent figure to find himself at the centre of this storm is Irish and Munster scrum-half Conor Murray.
Conor Murray is injured. Alby Mathewson was signed as cover for the 29-year-old. However, how long Murray is out for or the nature of his injury is entirely unknown. Speculation is widespread, with it believed to be a neck injury. The lack of clarity from the club has divided the sport's stakeholders and resulted in a quarrelsome and varied discussion.
Murray did take part in Munster training today.
Context is key here and various journalists have flagged possible issues with the handling of this case.
Last month, Ruaidhri O'Connor of the Irish Independent cited player insurance, players protecting their value and a competitive advantage as explanations for the secrecy while also citing 'valid reasons' for more transparency.
For one thing, the players are public figures whose income is subsidised by the tax-payers...
For another, rugby is battling a perception that it has become a dangerous game to play and one wonders what message is being sent by the minimalist information. It is also a sport at risk from doping and transparency plays a big part of the fight against performance-enhancing drugs.
Writing in the Sunday Independent, Sinead Kissane criticised the "silence and confidentiality" in an era where player welfare is paramount:
It doesn't help prevention if we try to hide the consequences of what happens when a player dangerously tackles another player. That incident should teach any player to never, ever repeat that kind of reckless challenge.
Speaking on Second Captains Podcast last month, Irish Times journalist Gerry Thornley explained why insurance may be a concern:
I just think that insurance companies paying out on concussion ending careers and so forth. It is a recurring injury as opposed to a one-off, the way it is interpreted by them and so I just think that there could be issues about insurance companies and players. Each getting twitchy with each other about insurance policies and how they are covered. That's all. I don't really want to go any further than that, I just think this is why players are starting to be a bit more careful about the information that is released out there.
Simon Hick: I think I'd probably be on their (players) side with this. The diagnosis of concussion is still so up in the care and probably will be for the foreseeable. It is going to be a tricky area with insurance companies anyway.
Chris Foy of the Daily Mail covered the topic in the UK press today, and argued that the case is against his duty to 'the public.'
In effect, their investment makes them shareholders in a team and its players. As shareholders, they are quite entitled to know if a marquee figure within the organisation is likely to participate any time soon. And Irish players also benefit from major tax rebates at the end of their careers, placing an even greater onus on them to accept the people's interest in their state-funded careers.
It was this article that provoked a Munster fan backlash.
Mind telling us on what basis an employer and data controller of what's classed as sensitive health data under the GDPR has any legal basis for to reveal sensitive health data against express wishes of the employee?
In detail, if you don't mind.
— Tim O'Connor (@timoconnorbl) October 8, 2018
Perfectly entitled to keep the details under wraps if he wants. Irfus only “obligation” would be to say whether or not he is available for selection in the near future. It does create a vacuum and this will be filled by rumours !
— Peter Gaughan (@shelflife68) October 8, 2018
Conor Murray's injury is Conor Murray's business.
And that's that. pic.twitter.com/CCgk6zc8Gu
— The Loose Head (@TheLooseH) October 8, 2018
When reading the furore around Conor Murray and his injury, it’s important to remember the difference between ‘secret’ and ‘private’.
— Laura-Jane Jones (@MissLJJ) October 8, 2018
The situation has similarities to the one that unfolded with Jamie Heaslip, who also refused to divulge full details about his back injury. Naturally, this is a complex issue that hinges on developing aspects like the individual's history and nature of the injury. The idea that his employer should divulge information against his wishes is ludicrous. Ultimately, Murray is in a situation where he is a world class player who is taking action to protect his value.
In an era where outlandish statements and definitive narratives are the currency which form the bedrock of popular discourse, tagging the situation as complex will count for little. That doesn't make it any less true. Murray is entitled to his medical privacy. Other cases will demand separate evaluations.
Away from that, Munster do have an issue at scrum-half. The province confirmed today that Alby Mathewson suffered a knee injury during their 30-22 loss against Leinster last weekend and he will go for a scan later today. Conor Murray, Neil Cronin and James Hart will all be unavailable for next Saturday's Champions Cup tie against Exeter Chiefs meaning Duncan Williams is the only senior scrum-half available.