November 2009

« December 2004 | Main | March 2011 »

NFL to require independent medical exams to assess concussions

FOX Sports has reported an important new policy development in the NFL policies toward concussions.  According to FOX, the NFL  will now require teams to retain the services of independent neurologists and neurosurgeons to assess players following a concussion or head injury.

FOX Sports has learned that the teams were instructed to immediately find "independent" doctors and send names to the league for approval. The league will then team with the NFL Players Association's medical people to determine that each doctor is in fact an expert in this field as well as impartial to the team they are handling.   You can read the full Fox report:  NFL Implements new concussion policy. The New York Times has also followed up with a story of its own on this same subject, NFL To Shift In Its Handling of Concussions.

While this all sounds good, the concept of an “independent” examination is always something I am always cautious of.  In the area of personal injury, insurance companies routinely seek the service of “independent” medical examiners to assess our clients.  Unfortunately, these physicians are anything but independent and are in reality doctors for hire.  They understand who pays the bills and what the insurance company wants them to find and/or not find.  Time and time again, in the context of traumatic brain injury litigation my clients have been subject to phony medical examinations by neuropsychologists and neurologists who were anything but independent, ignored the available medical evidence, gave improper and incomplete examinations, relied upon faulty data and made up medicine to come to a conclusion that insurance company who was paying the bill wanted.  In fact, I call these “independent” medical examiners, Paid doctors for hire.  Other professions have different names for paid services.

The travesty of these exams came to light recently in a three part New York Times expose on “independent” medical examinations in the workers compensation context.  The physicians were retained by third party providers and understood what expectations were regarding their opinions.  These physicians tailored their opinions in favor of those who were paying for their services. You can read about these worker's compensation medical examinations.

I have also observed the same problem in the context of "independent" examinations arragned by the league to determine NLF disability claims resulting from head trauma.  Once again, these exams are routinely a sham producing inaccurate, incomplete and bias conclusions that prevent deserving players from receiving disability benefits for brain injuries.

I am all in favor of taking the decision away from team physicians and team trainers, but believe that players need the ability to retain their own physicians to provide advice and make important decisions for them.

November 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)