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Choice of doctor: a cautionary survey for Super Bowl Sunday

On Sunday, the Ravens play in the Big Game. There's nothing quite the Super Bowl when your local team is playing in it. The game itself is in New Orleans. But it's like a national midwinter festival in which Baltimore and San Francisco are the co-hosts.

But this is not merely a feel-good Super Bowl post. The game is also the occasion to highlight an issue that greatly affects Maryland workers' compensation claims: choice of doctor.

In Maryland and other states, workers' compensation law establishes the guidelines injured workers must follow regarding choice of doctor. Each state has its rules on this.

These rules are important in the workers' compensation process. They are important not only because the process requires them. The rules also play a key role because they may or may not prevent employers from funneling injured workers to doctors who favor employers. If workers are forced to rely solely on doctors who are too close to employers, workers may not get a fair assessment of their injuries.

Which brings us back to football. It isn't only construction workers, factory workers and other ordinary employees who may be concerned about having to see a doctor who is too close to an employer. Even NFL football players share this concern.

This was evident today in a statement from the NFL players association (NFLPA). The union announced the results of an internal survey on how teams manage players' injuries. The survey found that more than 9 out of 10 NFL players are dissatisfied with how their teams respond to their injuries.

Team doctors are on the front lines of this tension between players and their teams regarding injuries. And this tension tells a lot about how important choice of doctor is for injured employees.

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