Ensuring Access for Athletes During #MarchMadness
H.R. 921/S.689 was introduced last year by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA), along with Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to preserve the access of athletes and athletic teams to sports medicine professionals who provide high-quality, continuous health care services. AAOS has continued to urge members of Congress to support this legislation, highlighting the issue at the 2015 National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference and submitting a statement at a recent hearing on the legislation. This month, AAOS is tying the legislation together with the NCAA tournaments, calling on legislators to pass H.R. 921/S.689. The following op-ed was published by the Hill’s Congress Blog and can be found online here.
Will your team have their team at the NCAA tournament?
By Gerald R. Williams, Jr., M.D., Allen Anderson, M.D., Scott Sailor, EdD, ATC, and Jon Divine, M.D., MS
For many, March is a time for filling out your brackets and cheering on your favorite college basketball teams. But while the public is carefully tracking their picks and hoping for a Cinderella run, sports medicine professionals are working tirelessly to ensure the care of their players as they travel to games across the country. In just this tournament alone, more than 130 men’s and women’s teams are traveling across approximately 20 different states for their chance at a national title. Yet many of these states do not provide legal protection for professionals treating injured athletes on the road. And forcing team providers to choose between treating injured athletes at great professional risk and reducing athletes’ access to timely, high quality healthcare services is a losing proposition for everyone involved.
Legislation introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in the Senate and Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in the House offers a solution to the current system. The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2015 would clarify medical liability rules to ensure team providers are properly covered by their professional liability insurance while traveling with athletic teams in another state. From high school to college to professional levels, it is important that the men and women who are trained to protect and care for athletes and who best know the players’ medical histories are able to engage in the treatment of injured athletes.
The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2015 is a common sense solution that does not bypass state licensing rules and regulations or allow a medical professional to practice on the general population. Rather, the bill would deem health care services provided in a secondary state to have been provided in the professional’s primary state of licensure when determining applicable liability laws and liability insurance coverage. The legislation is also limited to treating team athletes and staff that the medical providers are contractually hired and insured to treat and it does not include care provided at a hospital or clinic.
The legislation has gained wide support from provider groups including the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). The bill has also received support from sports industry groups including the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
Even outside the March Madness excitement, sports teams travel across state lines every day. These athletes give their all to represent their teams, their colleges and universities, their cities or our country. And every day, there are team providers ensuring the health and safety of these athletes – approximately 14,000 physicians and athletic trainers provide care to athletic teams in the United States today. This March, in the spirit of the big dance, we urge Congress to pass the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2015 and protect the providers who are keeping our athletes safe.
Williams is president of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Anderson is president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM). Sailor is president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and department chair/professor at Fresno State University. Divine is president of American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) and professor of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine/head team physician at the University of Cincinnati Athletics.