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The Athletic Trainer and Trainee Relationship

By: Peter Kent

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.

Protecting and ensuring an athlete is safe and healthy is the responsibility of an athletic trainer, which is similar to that of a team physician. 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. Such responsibilities and actions may include:

* 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. However, specific circumstances are taken into consideration when legal action occurs because of the varying ways, places and resources that are available to athlete trainers.

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. Properly assessing and prescribing treatment of an injury is not always a universally accepted method, which is why it is difficult to determine an appropriate legal standard.

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. An additionally important mention is that legally, a trainer and their actions shouldn't compare to what an average athletic trainer may do in similar situations.

Because many practices of a a trainer may be outdated, the law becomes a bit hazy when it comes down to optimal medicinal care for sports injuries. 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.

This behavior cannot be considered reasonable because, legally, the arguement may be based on the most current scientific knowledge. According to the proper scale, for example, if a similar case of this nature goes to a jury then they may consider these actions less reasonable if evidence is presented that 14 percent of these individuals received grade two concussions.

All serious sports accidents/injuries should be throughly investigated at the time of the event. If an athlete is injured because of negligence by a trainer or other individual, legal action may be necessary.

LegalView offers additional resources on lawsuits and litigation at its homepage, http://www.LegalView.com/ . Also use LegalView's vast array of legal topics to learn about the most controversial prescription drugs on the market such as Vytorin and Zetia 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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