Bill aims to protect athletic trainers when teams cross state lines

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) On game day, most people watch all the action happening on the court or field. They often don't notice those on the sidelines -- the athletic trainers that travel with high school, college and professional teams.

However, those medical professionals are facing a major legal problem. Their medical malpractice insurance doesn't cover them when they travel out of state with their teams.

Now, athletic trainers and sports medicine professionals are closer to receiving liability insurance protection while providing care to their athletes out of state.

Lawmakers are working to clarify liability rules, sponsoring new legislation that has bipartisan support.

"It's just something that's never been brought up before, something that's never been thought about before," said Ken Sprague with the American Physical Therapy Association.

Sprague is supporting the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act. The legislation specifies that athletic trainers' insurance should follow them when they travel out of state with their teams.

“We've heard from hundreds about just how having this in place, this protection in place would give them so much peace of mind when they are traveling with these athletes," Sprague said. "Because at the end of the day, all they're trying to do is make sure that these athletes are being treated and make sure they're healthy and able to function at the highest level of sports.”

The process of applying for a state medical license to practice can take weeks or months, posing a major problem for physicians who regularly hit the road with their teams.

"It's something that I know that the people in the profession are very concerned about," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).

Sen. Thune, a co-sponsor of the legislation, says this bill would resolve that issue.

“We are trying to just make sure that this is a practical approach that enables sports medicine professionals who travel around, follow teams around the country, to be able to treat their athletes and not have to worry about a liability that might come from that," Sen. Thune explained.

The bill has already passed through the House of Representatives and now awaits debate in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.