Jan 29, 2015
Quick Hits: NATA Settles Suit With APTA

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) announced last Friday that an out-of-court settlement was reached in its Fair Practice Lawsuit against the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) on Sept. 21, 2009. The NATA filed suit against the APTA for antitrust violations that unfairly restricted athletic trainers from practicing manual therapy and gaining access to continuing education courses on manual therapy. The case was scheduled for a status and scheduling hearing in Federal District Court in Dallas on Sept. 22.

The centerpiece of the settlement is a Joint Statement on Cooperation between APTA and NATA, signed by the president of each association’s board of directors. Highlights of the Joint Statement include:

• That physical therapists are neither the exclusive providers of manual therapy nor the exclusive providers of physical medicine and rehabilitation services. The APTA agrees with NATA that athletic trainers are qualified to perform these services.

• That the scopes of practice of athletic trainers and physical therapists overlap.

• APTA recognition of athletic trainers as health care professionals qualified to assist their patients.

• That APTA will not make false or misleading statements about athletic trainers, including improper references to them as “unqualified,” “not qualified,” “non-qualified” or any variation of these terms. The APTA agreed that it will not make false or deceptive statements that mislead patients, employers or others regarding athletic trainers.

• That athletic trainers are qualified and authorized to provide interventions within their state scope of practice and licensure.

• That decisions related to reimbursement are to be decided by public and private insurers, state and federal legislators and regulators, patients and other stakeholders.

• That athletic trainers are qualified to pursue continuing education in manual therapy, and that APTA’s internal policies regarding continuing education does not apply to athletic trainers in the 47 states where ATs are licensed or regulated.

“I am pleased that we can move forward with respect for each profession’s knowledge, skills and abilities in manual therapy and physical medicine and rehabilitation,” said Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC, president of NATA. “In this time of health care reform, it is more important than ever that all health care professionals work as a team to deliver high quality, safe, affordable patient care. Athletic trainers contribute to their patients’ wellness, physical activity level and musculoskeletal health, no matter the age of the patient.”

Albohm said the settlement is also a victory for patients, public and private health insurers, employers and physicians because they will all have increased access to and choice of health care professionals. “We look forward to delivering therapy services and protecting the welfare of our patients,” she said.

The two national associations agreed to confer periodically on issues of common interest and areas of friction, as they arise. “We look forward to a spirit of mutual cooperation with the APTA,” Albohm said. “But we will be vigilant in protecting our members’ ability to practice to the fullest extent of their scope of practice and qualifications,” Albohm said.

NATA filed the civil lawsuit in February 2008 because of ongoing anti-competitive actions taken by the APTA. NATA was informed by members in Fall 2007 that the APTA and the Orthopaedic Section of the APTA had taken actions to restrict athletic trainers’ access to education in – and the practice of – manual therapy techniques. Manual therapy is included in the athletic training competencies, scope of practice and licensure. NATA believed that the APTA’s attempt to limit access to manual therapy courses was an attempt to prevent athletic trainers from competing fairly with physical therapists in providing therapy services.

Both associations will issue the “Joint Statement on Cooperation” to their respective members. Additionally, APTA and NATA will provide a prominent link to the joint statement on their home pages for one year and on a public-access Web page for an additional 24 months.

To review the Joint Statement on Cooperation and other related documents, go to: www.nata.org.

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