Kevin Love of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers recently played several games on an injured knee, which eventually required surgery to remove “loose bodies.” His coach, Tyronn Lue, has since faced scrutiny over his decision to play the four-time All-Star forward despite the injury, which he says was justified because Love was “headed for surgery anyway.” The AMA Code of Medical Ethics has guidance for physicians treating professional and amateur athletes.
What the Code says
In Opinion 1.2.5, “Sports medicine,” the Code explains:
Many professional and amateur athletic activities, including contact sports, can put participants at risk of injury. Physicians can provide valuable information to help sports participants, dancers and others make informed decisions about whether to initiate or continue participating in such activities.
Physicians who serve in a medical capacity at athletic, sporting or other physically demanding events should protect the health and safety of participants.
In this capacity, physicians should:
(a) Base their judgment about an individual’s participation solely on medical considerations.
(b) Not allow the desires of spectators, promoters of the event, or even the injured individual to govern a decision about whether to remove the participant from the event.
More go-to guidance
Chapter 1 of the Code, “Opinions on Patient-Physician Relationships,” also features opinions on terminating a patient-physician relationship, physician exercise of conscience, political action by physicians and ethical practice in telemedicine.
The Code of Medical Ethics is updated periodically to address the changing conditions of medicine. The new edition, adopted in June 2016, is the culmination of an eight-year project to comprehensively review, update and reorganize guidance to ensure that the Code remains timely and easy to use for physicians in teaching and in practice.