Many Doctors of Chiropractic are enthusiastic about the benefits of treating athletes at events. However, doctors who provide this care must be prepared to recognize and manage the risks.
Posted in Clinical Risks on Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Many Doctors of Chiropractic are becoming active with treating athletes. From serving as a team doctor for a local high school to working with elite athletes, sports chiropractic can be an exciting component of a chiropractic practice.
As with any practice activity, there is risk associated with treating athletes. If an injury occurs and a malpractice action results, the actions of the treating doctor will come under intense scrutiny. The defense, and ultimately the outcome of the case, will depend on steps taken to manage the risk.
Following are tips to help you properly prepare to manage the risk of an athletic event for the athletes’ protection, as well as your own:
- Understand the chain of command and how to handle emergency situations. Find out what protocols and procedures are in place if an emergency should arise. For example, if a football player is severely injured on the field, what steps will automatically be executed by the medical team and what is your part in that process? Also ask what communication tools are available to foster efficient responses as situations arise. Take time before the event to discuss situations with other providers at the event, such as the ambulance crew and the other team’s medical staff. Any confusion during an emergency situation may cost time the athlete may not have. Therefore, make sure everybody is clear on who is covering all potential situations.
- Spell out expectations in writing. Roles and responsibilities of all onsite providers should be spelled out in writing with the event organizers. Remember scope of practice issues when duties are being assigned as many times event coordinators may not understand the chiropractic scope. Ask who is responsible for emergency services and first aid.
- Identify travel and treat issues. If the event is outside your state of licensure, you must address licensure and informed consent issues with the licensing board of the state you will be visiting. Some states require a temporary license or notice to be given to the board. Failure to comply with the requirements of states’ boards may result in allegations of practicing chiropractic without a license.
- Get your records in order. A plan is needed to address recordkeeping issues. While treatment at sporting events tends to be fast-paced, records are still needed to document your work with a patient. Be sure to address informed consent along with the necessary clinical documentation. Check with the event coordinators to review any forms addressing consent to treat in the event of an emergency and liability waivers. Any consent forms or waivers for minors should be signed by the parent in the presence of someone at the event or school faculty to safeguard against forgery. Processes must also be in place to archive any records and forms created during the event. Remember the same level of care must be offered in the office and at a sporting event.
- Remember the patient’s best interests come first. There may be pressure from the patient and others to expedite the treatment. Whether it is the high school athlete anxious to get back in the game, their coach who’s concerned about losing a key player for the rest of the game, or a marathoner set on finishing the run, your primary concern must be the patient and how to best treat the injury. Always protect the athlete; this is a must and should be your primary concern.
- Notify your malpractice carrier to ensure you have the proper coverage in place. NCMIC generally covers the treatment of athletes, as long as the D.C. has the appropriate licensure.Contact NCMIC at 800-247-8043 to review your coverage.
While providing your services at sporting events offers great benefits, due diligence on your part to address inherent risks will benefit you and the participants you may treat.