Earlier this week, Major League Baseball became the first American professional sports league to approve the use of biometric monitors – aka wearables – on the field of play. Made by WHOOP, teams cannot force players to wear the devices.
Where will this go?
The power of healthcare wearables to educate us about our bodies and identify health issues is indisputable. However, who gets access to all the data that is being collected?
For major league baseball players, their bodies are their products. When it comes time for contract negotiations, physical health is nearly as important as performance on the field. The smallest of health issues can be the difference between a $100 million contract and a $5 million deal.
So, as a player, would I want my team ownership to know that my heart races 15 beats faster in a late inning, game-changing situation? Or do I want them to know that my body temperature sky rockets during the dog days of summer? And even if they couldn’t use that info against me, would I want a fan to be able to hack into my device and broadcast my vitals?
We are approaching a world where everything is measurable.
It sounds great when the Progressive Snapshot device in your car can prove that you are a safe driver and lower your insurance rates. But, what happens when it records your tendency to speed or ride your brakes – hiking up your insurance premiums?
Up until now, the great debate about wearables has been focused on how they could affect the health insurance marketplace. But, the MLB deal takes the privacy issues to a new level – the ability for employers to make a hiring decision based on your health.
Prior to rolling out this week’s announcement, I hope that MLB and WHOOP developed a comprehensive privacy and usage policy that truly preserves choice for MLB players and secures the data that is being collected.
Did MLB just open a Pandora’s box opening the league up to lawsuits from players? Even though the use of WHOOP is not required, could players who openly share their WHOOP data be treated better than those who choose not to? Will it be assumed that those who don’t use WHOOP have something to hide?
MLB needs to have answers to these and many other key questions or risk facing a tag team of player boycotts and lawsuits.