The doctor-patient confidentiality is sacred in the field of medicine, but a new belief by the American Academy of Neurology wants to tip-toe the line, and perhaps even cross it entirely when it comes to youth concussions. The AAN believes in order to protect young athletes, doctors should feel comfortable communicating honestly with the heads of youth sports teams on the matter of concussions.
Dr. Efren Wu is a sports medicine family doctor in La Quinta. He said it's only natural for the coach to be in complete communication with doctors when it comes to the health and safety of their athletes. "If they're playing organized sports, technically their coach is their guardian at that period of time," he said. "Ideally, I still think it's a good idea that the athlete and their parents or their guardians are aware that, as a physician, we would be forwarding this information or informing their coaches of the situation."
The AAN recommends doctors to get young athletes to sign waivers to allow them to communicate directly with their coaches. This will hopefully prevent "doctor shopping" by young athletes who, after a concussion, might find any doctor to clear them back to play.
"Often times players are in tough situations, and they feel pressure to not always willing to give a full assessment or what the full account of what the doctor was," said Desert United soccer head coach Tom Woodworth.
Dr. Wu added, "ultimately it's the health of the athlete at risk. If something like this were to pass where it required a waiver for the physician to release medical information about an athletes health, I believe it'd be worthwhile."
Young athletes may think adults are being too cautious, but with risks later on in life impaired decision-making and premature dementia, all because of concussions, it's better to err on the side of safety.