CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A legislative interim committee Monday requested a survey of state laws that provide immunity from lawsuits for health care providers who volunteer at high school sporting events.
The issue of giving medical professionals immunity when they treat injured athletes was the sticking point that killed a bill in the 2012 regular session that would have put into state law standards for treating high school athletes who sustain concussions or head injuries.
During Monday's meeting of an education interim committee on student wellness, several doctors testified that the risk of malpractice suits keeps many health care professionals from serving as team physicians.
"We just brought in a new physician here, who's afraid to go on the sidelines because he's afraid he'll be sued," Dr. Gary Elkins of the Lincoln Primary Care Center told legislators.
"It is vital to our young student athletes that we keep good health care professionals on the sidelines," Elkins said. "You do not want to make it difficult to have someone like me, or Dr. [Ron] Stollings, or Dr. [Kelly] Roush on the sidelines. You want us to be there."
Roush, director of sports medicine services at the Holzer Clinic, testified earlier about the need to have health care professionals in attendance at all contact sports. Stollings, a physician and state senator, was on the conference committee that tried to work out a compromise on the sports concussion bill.
Stollings, who has served as team physician at numerous high school sports events, said that until the debate over that bill, he had assumed he had at least some immunity.
"It was my understanding, when I went out on the field that I had some civil liability protection," said Stollings, who called the debate an eye-opener for many physicians.