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Second medical opinions may help prevent malpractice incidents

We discussed the medical care issues of major league baseball players in a previous post. Along with the conflict of interest issues that team physicians face, there is also a risk that team physicals will fail to diagnose and properly treat a player's injuries.

Misdiagnosis of medical conditions and improper rehabilitation plans are not unique to professional baseball players and impact many Boston residents every day. A second medical opinion is one way that patients can protect themselves from undergoing an unnecessary surgery or treatment. A second medical opinion can also catch an improper diagnosis.

Many major league players are leery of the medical care they receive because team owners may pressure physicians to recommend recovery programs that optimize a player's ability to play at the expense of the player's long-term health. The Boston Globe reports that baseball players are entitled to seek second opinions under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. Teams typically cover the cost associated with securing these second opinions.

Many agents and players insist that baseball players must exercise their contractual rights to a second opinion to protect their interests and careers.

"So much is on the line that there is a certain level of skepticism you bring to the table when you're representing the interests of the player with team doctors,'' an agent and law professor said.

"I always send players for second opinions because misdiagnoses happen all the time,'' another agent said.

One former Sox player who had a misdiagnosed and mistreated elbow injury said he regrets trusting team doctors and not securing a second opinion. "It's okay to have the faith, but you always need to look out for yourself," he said. "Your career is at stake.''

Source: The Boston Globe, "For team doctors, a tight spot: As medical staffs try to serve injured players and owners, conflict is the name of the game," Bob Hohler, 3/27/11

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