03 April 2011

The Priorities of Sports Medicine

Now-retired baseball player Jim Edmonds recently had some unpleasant things to say about his brief stint with the Cincinnati Reds last season.  Like a lot of other bloggers and sports writers I could harp on Edmonds's history of self-aggrandizing and finger pointing, but I'm going to forgo his snipes about his tenure as a player.  Suffice it to say that I don't agree with Edmonds's assessment that he would be "chasing his kids" right now had it not been for his limited time with the Reds.  Instead, I'm more interested in the retort from Reds physician Dr. Timothy Kremchek, quoted by Mark Sheldon on MLB.com:
"In the short time I knew him, I thought he was professional and that he really wanted to help our team toward the end of the season and playoffs. I wish him luck with his family, and that's all I can say."
Dr. Kremchek
It's okay if you've read about Edmonds's remarks already and don't recognize Dr. Kremchek's above remarks; I couldn't find them quoted in nearly any of the online summaries of this little spat.  I'm just a fan and have no firsthand knowledge of the guy, or how he treats players.  That said, it is appalling that a physician would appear to place the interests of his employer above those of his patient.

Was Jim Edmonds paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a game for a living?  Absolutely.  Did he know the risks to his health, continuing to run and dive for balls into his late 30s?  Of course.  This is a guy who suffered post-concussion syndrome in 2006, sat out all of 2009 (indignant that he wasn't offered a sufficiently lucrative deal by any Major League team) and yet insisted on returning to play in 2010.  He had a defensive style marked by sliding catches and had already sustained the injury to his Achilles heel that seems to have been the coup de grace for his playing days.

None of that negates the expectation that any patient should have that his own needs are placed above those of whomever is writing his physician's paycheck.  It's bad enough when insurers intercede and restrict testing and treatment options, but for a doctor to indicate that he thought his patient would or should place his own interests secondary to that of an employer is outright repulsive.

Perhaps that's not what Dr. Kremchek meant by his remarks.  I don't know.  To the best of my knowledge, he has not been quoted about the situation since making those brief comments, and as I've already indicated I have no firsthand familiarity with either him or his practice.  His phrasing, though, calls attention to itself and is highly suspect.