The full text of the letter signed by Dr. Robert Williams and Dr. Brian Stephens appears in the Voice section of this website.
Tracy Unified School District is putting a dispute among local football team doctors in the past after one of the team doctors was ejected from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game on Dec. 6 at Sacramento State University.
Dr. Robert Williams, team doctor for the football teams at Tracy, West and Kimball high schools, issued a joint statement with Dr. Brian Stephens, TUSD superintendent, stating that the incident spotlighted the importance the district places on player safety.
The statement says that local team doctors, who provide a physician and a chiropractor at all home games, strive to be at the forefront of sports medicine. For example, the team doctors provide free physicals to student athletes and preseason assessment of football players, so that players can be accurately evaluated for possible concussions if doctors suspect a head injury as a result of contact in a game.
Williams was ejected from the Tracy High vs. Folsom High section title game on Dec. 6 after he walked onto the field in the third quarter and insisted that a player be sidelined with a possible rib injury, even though his fellow team doctors, Drs. Ian Pulliam and Tim Brown, told coaches that the player could return to the game.
The next day, all three doctors met and agreed that the proper protocol should be for the doctors to reach consensus on a player’s status before giving their opinion to coaches.
“The last word is on safety, and always has been and always needs to be,” Williams said Tuesday, adding that he would rather err on the side of sitting a healthy player out and not risk a small injury becoming a serious injury.
“If there’s any doubt, it has to be on safety,” he said. “We are the ones who have to take the oath of responsibility.”
Williams stressed that coaches and team doctors have to be increasingly cautious about injuries to players, especially if there’s a risk of a concussion. California Interscholastic Federation policies mirror state law on how to deal with concussions.
“It’s now illegal ,” Williams said. “If a coach knows a kid has a head injury and lets him back in the game, he could get in legal trouble.”
Both Pulliam and Brown said after the Dec. 6 game that the problem was not so much their evaluations of the player’s condition, but the doctors’ failure to reach consensus.
Tracy High athletic director Gary Henderson said that he contacted all three doctors after the Dec. 6 game, and he’s confident that future incidents can be resolved without the kind of conflict that arose at the game.
“Someone, bottom line, and I think they agree on that, has to have the final word,” Henderson said. “I think that’s what they realized, and they all need to agree. You can’t have two opinions when you come out and play.”