Team physicians have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, an extension of what has become commonplace in the medicolegal environment in the rest of medicine. As recently as 2003, there were 18 active lawsuits against National Football League team physicians. This is reflective of the general attitude in society of persons seeking financial compensation through the legal system in the case of injury. In many environments, it is common for professional athletes who have not been able to fit into the plans of the various franchises to seek remu neration through the medicolegal pathway. This creates additional strain on the doctor-patient relationship for team physicians and exposes the team physicians to significant financial risk. While there is no way to eliminate this concern completely there are some steps that can be taken to attempt to minimize the risk. First, the physician needs to maintain the tradition of honor, service, integrity, and dedication required in our role of protecting the well-being of the athlete. Second, the team physician should maintain a very active pursuit of continuing medical education to stay up with modern techniques and treatment options so that the athletes receive the very best care possible. Third, it is imperative that the team physician be a true on-site provider with good relationships with the coaches, trainers, and players rather than serving in a remote setting as an "office arthroscopist." Fourth, it is important for the team physician to understand his or her options in relation to his or her role in a professional sports setting. Oftentimes, the physician can be indemnified as a member of the organization and, therefore, at decreased risk. Another option is to consider additional riders on malpractice policies to cover the potentially exorbitant awards that may be made in the setting of a perceived medicole-gal injury. Fifth, it is imperative to review very carefully the service contract as it relates to high school and collegiate relationships. It is not uncommon for some institutional malpractice coverage to contain exclusions for community service. The unsuspecting team physician may be caught in a bind if these matters are not carefully analyzed ahead of time. While these measures will not prevent exposure from an egregious plaintiff's bar, they may well head off many of the problems that increase liability exposure.
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