New Federal Law Protects Medical Professionals Who Travel with Teams | Sports Destination Management

New Federal Law Protects Medical Professionals Who Travel with Teams

Oct 31, 2018 | By: Michael Popke

Medical professionals traveling with sports teams are now protected by a federal law that ensures their license and liability insurance remains in effect after crossing state lines. 

The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2018, which was included as part of a larger, unrelated piece of legislation, was signed into law on Oct. 5. And according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, it was sorely needed.

“Many states do not provide legal protection for athletic trainers or sports medicine professionals who travel to another state with an athletic team solely to provide care for that team,” explains a special page on the association’s website dedicated to passage of the act. “Medical liability insurance carriers do not cover them when they travel with their team to states where they are not licensed to practice. Consequently, they must choose between either treating injured athletes at great professional risk or abandoning the teams to whom they provide care.”

“Now … they at least can [treat athletes] with peace of mind,” added David Chao, head team physician for the San Diego Chargers, writing in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The new legislation protects team physicians, athletic trainers, chiropractors and other health professionals, and stipulates that healthcare services provided by a covered “sports medicine professional” to an athlete, athletic team or team staff member in a secondary state outside that professional’s state of licensure will be covered by the appropriate medical malpractice insurance provider.

“it also ensures consistency of care for the athletes who rely on them,” N. Ray Tuck Jr., president of the American Chiropractic Association said in a statement.

The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act originally was introduced in April 2017 by U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) “Sports medicine professionals provide an important service to athletes, on the road and at home,” Thune said in a statement. “I’m glad they will … have the clarity they need to perform their job as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Still, Chao argues that the recently passed law doesn’t go far enough. “It is still illegal for any doctor to bring even one pain pill with him for team usage in case a player breaks his leg,” he wrote. “Players or patients can bring a bottle of pills for their own use (and we all know ‘sharing’ will happen), but a trained and licensed medical professional cannot. … I am not criticizing the Drug Enforcement Agency responsible for enforcing this law, as they don’t make the laws. The rules of the land were written before frequent air travel. Elected officials have finally gotten with the times on this bill. Now they should go further and allow a reasonable exception to travel with medication. Even allowing a team doctor with 53 players to travel with just 10 total pills could go a long way to humanely treating a significant injury without delay.”

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