Mar 23, 2017
NATM 2017: Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act

As part of our celebration of National Athletic Training Month 2017, Training & Conditioning is highlighting five significant contributions that have tremendously impacted the profession. This week’s topic is the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act.


In the midst of March Madness and basketball teams traveling all over the country, the importance of the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act is highlighted. If passed, this bill will provide legal protection for athletic trainers and sports medicine professionals to practice across state lines. In other words, athletic trainers would be able to treat their teams’ athletes on the road.

“[The bill] addresses a unique problem that sports medicine professionals face when traveling with their teams out of state,” Congressman Brett Guthrie of Kentucky said in a statement reported by USA Today High School Sports. “There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the legal protection for these practitioners who are licensed and covered by malpractice insurance to practice in their home state but may not be covered when they travel to another state for a game, tournament, or other sporting event. [The bill] clarifies that these professionals can provide quality and timely health care for injured athletes without putting their personal and professional lives at risk.”

According to an article from Physical Therapy Products, the 2015-16 version of the bill (HR-921) received 190 sponsors and passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2016. However, the bill was updated (HR-302) and recently passed by the House by voice vote in January. Up next, the bill will be introduced to the 2017-18 U.S. Senate. If passed, the bill will go to the president to be signed into law.

“It’s encouraging to see the U.S. House of Representatives recognize the importance of this legislation,” Matt Gammons, MD, Primary Care Sports Medicine Physician at Vermont Orthopaedic Clinic Killington Medical Clinic and American Medical Society for Sports Medicine President, said in a media release upon the bill’s passage in the House. “The college football bowl season represents a perfect example of how this bill can protect athletes and health care professionals as they travel with teams to do their jobs.”

This bill is anticipated to be particularly salient for athletic trainers. Currently, to work in a different state than the one in which they are licensed, athletic trainers may apply for a license there. However, the process can take weeks or even months, which would prove difficult for teams that travel a lot or don’t find out about tournament locations until days before a game. Being able to treat athletes as they travel would allow more peace of mind and ease for the team.

“It’s more than just convenience, though. Doctors and athletic trainers need to know their medical insurance will cover them when working in another state,” wrote David Geier, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon, in a column on The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.). “They shouldn’t be forced to choose between treating one of their injured athletes and risking malpractice issues or staying home and not traveling with the team.”

The bill is important for athletes, as well, Dr. Geier argues.

“If passed into law, athletes will be treated by doctors and athletic trainers who know them and know their medical and injury history,” he wrote. “If their team doctors and athletic trainers can’t evaluate and treat them, then their care would fall to the medical staff of the home team or doctors of local emergency departments or urgent care facilities.”

The bill’s progress can be tracked here.

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