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Responsibilities of Athletic Trainers to Athletes

Mar 31, 2008
There have been relatively few legal opinions about litigation between athletic trainers, competitive athletes and sports accidents or injuries. However the courts have recognized that a duty does exist between the parties.

An athletic trainer's responsibility, similar to that of a team physician, is to protect the health and safety of all the athletes. In the case of an athletic trainer who is treating an athlete with an injury, several legal duties exist as a result of the athletic trainer/athlete relationship.

There are a number of potential recognized legal duties of a trainer or a team physician. These duties include that they need to:

* Properly assess the athlete's condition

* Provide or obtain proper medical treatment

* Provide clearance to participate

*Inform the athlete of the risks of athletic participation given the particular medical condition

Legal Duty

There have also been a number of legal cases that have focused on the duty of the athletic trainer to a student-athlete. Whether a legal duty has been breached is assessed from the athletic trainer's adherence to accepted sports medicine practice.

This is known as the "reasonable person standard," because an athletic trainer is expected to act as a reasonable athletic trainer would under the same or similar circumstance. Legal statutes recognize that not all athletic trainers practice in the same settings, with equal access to resources, staff, facilities, or equipment, so the level of reasonable care does change according to specific circumstances.

Since an athletic trainer is a sports medicine professional they are held to the level of care that a reasonable sports medicine professional would be held to in a similar situation. This standard of care is usually established by expert testimony and is based on national athletic training certification boards, standardized training programs, certification programs, and state licensing requirements.

A certified athletic trainer must act with the skill and knowledge that is reasonable for the profession.
One of the difficulties of determining the legal standard of care for athletic trainers in dealing with athletes who suffer serious injuries is the lack of a universally accepted legal standard for proper assessment and prescribed treatment of the injury.

Although sports medicine researchers do not universally endorse any specific grading scale, the scales do provide legal guidelines for a reasonable standard of care to be used by athletic trainers. However, data indicates that most athletic trainers do not even use these guidelines when assessing an athletes' head injuries. From a legal perspective, it is important to note that the athletic trainer's actions should not be compared with what the average athletic trainer would do in the same or similar circumstance.

What an average athletic trainer does is sometimes difficult to determine, may be unduly deferential to an older or outdated procedure, and is unlikely to produce optimal sports medicine care. Just because most athletic trainers may evaluate an athletes' head injuries on a hunch it does not mean that it is legally reasonable to do so.

A recent study showed that almost one third of football players who experience a concussion were held out of play for only 14 minutes. This is an amazing fact given that the grading scales for injuries generally recommend that an athlete who has suffered a minor head injury needs to remain on the sidelines for at least 20 minutes.

Legally it is possible to argue that based on the current scientific knowledge this behavior is not reasonable. If a case of this type went to a jury they may consider this behavior even less reasonable if evidence is presented that 14% of these athletes suffered a Grade 2 concussion according to the proper scale.

All serious sports accidents/injuries should be throughly investigated at the time of the event. If the injury may have been caused due to any type of negligence on another's part legal guidance may be required.
About the Author
Use http://www.LegalView.com and its vast array of legal topics to learn about the most controversial prescription drugs on the market such as Vytorin risks or learn about the one of the newer practice areas found at http://baxter-heparin.legalview.com, which discusses Baxter Heparin's side effects.
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