Principles of assistance

Treating professional athletes

Originally published September 2007 / Reviewed July 2013

The following outlines principles for CMPA assistance in legal matters arising from the provision of care to professional athletes. These principles include circumstances where:

  • members act as team physicians
  • members, who are not team physicians, are providing urgent or emergent medical care at major professional sporting events
  • members who in the normal course of their practice provide medical care to
    professional athletes who are residents of Canada

Physicians for professional teams

In general, members will be eligible for CMPA assistance:

  • when acting as a team physician for Canadian professional sports teams, but not major league North American-based professional sports teams from the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and the National Football League. Canadian professional sports teams may include minor league affiliates of major league North American-based professional sports teams
  • when acting as a team physician for Canadian Olympic and national teams which may include professional athletes, provided only a few members of the team are professional athletes from major league North American-based professional sports teams. Members are encouraged to contact the CMPA to confirm their eligibility for assistance if acting as a team physician for an Olympic or national team that consists of at least one professional athlete from a major league North American-based professional sports team

In general, members will not be eligible for CMPA assistance:

  • when acting as a team physician for major league North American-based professional sports teams from the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and the National Football League
  • when acting as a team physician for Canadian Olympic and national teams that consist largely of professional athletes from major league North American-based professional sports teams

A team physician for a major league North American-based professional sports team is defined as a physician who has a financial or other arrangement with a major league North American-based professional sports team. This includes a physician who, on behalf of the team, participates in pre-season assessment and training camp, provides ongoing care for injuries and illnesses during the season and out of season, or provides medical coverage at sporting events and makes return-to-play decisions.

Urgent or emergent care

The CMPA will generally extend assistance to members (excluding members who are acting as team physicians) who are asked to provide urgent or emergent medical care to professional athletes at major professional sporting events in Canada (including major league North American-based professional sporting events). This may include events at which professional athletes compete such as professional tennis, golf, and the Olympics.

Urgent or emergent care will not generally include making fitness-to-play or return-to-play decisions beyond the advice required for that specific sporting event. For example, physicians providing urgent or emergent care at a tennis tournament can make return-to-play decisions during that tournament, but not beyond that event. Members who provide non-urgent or non-emergent medical care to a professional athlete at a major professional sporting event will not generally be eligible for assistance.

In all circumstances, the CMPA's approach to assisting members who provide care to patients who are not ordinarily residents of Canada applies.  The CMPA will generally extend assistance to members who treat non-resident patients in urgent or emergent circumstances, provided that:

  1. the care was provided in Canada; and
  2. the members made reasonable efforts, in the circumstances, to obtain an executed Governing Law and Jurisdiction Agreement in a form satisfactory to the CMPA, where the members knew or ought to have known that the patient was ordinarily resident outside of Canada

Care in the normal course of practice

The CMPA will generally extend assistance to members who in the normal course of their medical practice (excluding those areas of their normal practice which involve acting as the team physician for major league North American-based professional sports teams) provide medical care to professional athletes who are residents of Canada. This may include professional athletes on major league North American-based professional sports teams and professional athletes who compete at major professional sporting events such as professional tennis, wrestling, boxing, motor sport, and golf.

When a member acts as the primary care physician for a professional athlete who is resident in Canada, the member will generally be eligible for assistance with medical-legal difficulties arising in Canada.


DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this learning material is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific professional medical or legal advice, nor to constitute a "standard of care" for Canadian healthcare professionals. The use of CMPA learning resources is subject to the foregoing as well as the CMPA's Terms of Use.