The American Academy of Neurology, in a position statement published online July 9 in the journal Neurology, delineated physicians’ “ethical duties in protecting athletes from” concussions, maintaining that “physicians’ obligation to keep patients safe sometimes trumps patient autonomy.”
The statement aligns with Pennsylvania’s 2012 concussion law, Act 101, to protect student athletes, which is strongly supported by the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED). The law requires any student-athlete who exhibits signs or symptoms of a concussion or head injury to obtain clearance by a licensed or certified medical professional trained in concussions before being allowed to resume playing sports.
Act 101 requires written clearance from an “appropriate medical professional” before a student athlete can return to competition. The position statement’s “key point…is that ‘physicians caring for concussed athletes have an ethical obligation to ensure that their primary responsibility is to safeguard the current and future physical and mental health of their patients.’”
The intent of the state law is that physicians should ignore pressure from players, coaches or parents and give the athlete the go-ahead to resume playing only if he or she is medically ready. The neurologists’ statement also supports the state law that physicians must also ”alert athletes and their families about the risk of concussion in any sports they are involved in, the statement said.” Also, the statement “called for wider use of baseline mental testing of athletes, the addition of concussion evaluation and management training to neurology residency programs, and the creation of a national concussion registry with mandatory reporting.”