Medical Malpractice and the Sports Medicine Clinician
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- Kane, S.M. & White, R.A. Clin Orthop Relat Res (2009) 467: 412. doi:10.1007/s11999-008-0589-5
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More individuals are participating in athletics today than ever before. Physicians treating athletes confront unique diagnostic and treatment challenges and an increased risk of legal liability. The key areas regarding liability are preparticipation examinations, determination of eligibility, evaluation of significant on-field injuries, and information disclosure. The issues surrounding preparticipation physicals and determination of eligibility are closely linked. Physicians must be prepared to seek guidance from specialists, particularly when there are cardiac, spinal, or neurologic issues. Appropriate on-field evaluation of potential concussions, spinal injuries, and heat stroke are key areas of concern for the physician. Privacy issues have become more complex in the age of federal regulation. Physicians and all athletic staff should be aware of privacy laws and ensure proper consent documentation is obtained from all athletes or their parents. All athletic programs should develop a plan that details roles and procedures to be followed in a medical emergency. Sports caregivers must take affirmative steps that better protect their patients from harm and physicians from legal liability.