Protecting travelling team physicians

The requirement for provisional licensing by host countries when physicians travel abroad to take care of their teams is a major issue across sports and all sizes of sports events. The FIMS Interfederal Commission (IFC) has recently collated information on 24 countries worldwide, which confirmed a wide variety in practice. Already trying to establish the actual laws/rules in a country can be an arduous task that starts with identifying a body competent and authorised to provide the relevant information. Team physicians, particularly for smaller events or individual matches, therefore are for the most part not aware of the rules in host countries. Consequently, they will often not be in compliance when a temporary license is needed.

According to health and sport law experts, this might have considerable legal consequences regardless of an actual incident. For large events such as World Championships, the requirement to submit certified copies and other documents for temporary licensing months in advance of an event is a considerable hurdle for organisers and visiting teams. 

While there are efforts undertaken by organisations such as FIMS to find a solution, we would like to share here a pragmatic approach to this matter that is successfully practised by the World Rowing Association (FISA). The FISA Sports Medicine Commission developed two-step approach:

1. FISA accredits team physicians that provide services to athletes at their events with a requirement of at least one physician per National Association. They apply online completing a questionnaire (https://rowingtwo.sportresult.com/Accreditation/Doctor), confirming the details of their qualification and specialization, but also their familiarity with the FISA medical rules, the IOC Medical Code and the World Anti-Doping Code. After submission and assessment by FISA, the team physicians receive a FISA Team Doctor accreditation. This is a one-off application for the physician. FISA provides regular education courses to update and expand the team physicians' knowledge on key topics in rowing.

2. Consequently, and based on FISA’s team physician accreditation, it is part of the bidding requirements to host FISA World Championships that the host country waives the need for temporary licensing of medical staff and provides proof thereof by the respective national authority in writing.

This approach appears to offer a very workable solution for larger International Federations while a general solution is sought.