President's Message

June 2017 

What if...

What if the Wisconsin legislature should grant dentists the right to do, and of course be paid for, pre-participation sports physicals. Dentists studied gross anatomy and pathophysiology of the whole human body in dental school. They are trained to recognize findings of systemic diseases as they manifest in the mouth. They are thoroughly trained in and understand risk assessment and prevention as it pertains to dentition. The fact that dentists are not taught, nor extensively practiced and supervised over years, in doing a thorough and complete medical exam, or how and when to screen for non-oral illness, or how to expertly assess the psychological and emotional status of children, should not matter.

At least it doesn't seem as it will matter one bit to those legislators on the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Health who voted in favor of Assembly Bill 260, ignoring the objections of many medical organizations, and perhaps more important, ignoring the objections of those outside of medicine who are directly involved in the health and safety of child athletes: the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Wisconsin Athletic Trainers Association.

Does it sound a little crazy to you that dentists should be doing sports physicals for our children? You should ask yourself if that is as absurd as our government legislating that chiropractors should be providing this service. Based on their training in dental school, dentists are more qualified to do a general physical exam than are chiropractors. Now, AB 260 does stipulate that chiropractors need to obtain a "certificate" to perform these exams. Below is verbatim language from the bill:

SECTION 15. 446.02 (2) (dm) of the statutes is created to read: 446.02 (2) (dm) The examining board shall issue a certificate to a chiropractor who is licensed under this chapter and who submits satisfactory evidence that the chiropractor has completed postgraduate study in performing health or physical examinations for participation in school or college athletic activities. The chiropractor shall pay a one-time certification fee of $25, except that no fee is required under this paragraph for an individual who is eligible for the veterans fee waiver program under s. 45.44. The examining board shall promulgate rules that establish minimum requirements or standards for the postgraduate study that shall be completed in order to obtain a certificate under this paragraph. The examining board shall also promulgate rules that require continuing education in order to maintain the certificate.

My take-away from this is that the chiropractic examining board alone is being given the authority to judge what amount of training would be sufficient to competently and safely practice medicine, yet they do not, by definition, have the training to competently and safely practice medicine. This would be the same as if the medical examining board was left to judge just how many hours of training I, as a family physician, need in order to perform chiropractic manipulations...or dental extractions.

Are you alarmed and a little upset now? I hope so. Don't just call your legislators—inundate them with calls and letters and let's stop this madness.

You can use the AAFP SpeakOut tool to contact your legislators regarding AB260. 

Ken Schellhase, MD

The mission of WAFP is to promote excellence in health care and to improve the health of the people of Wisconsin through the advancement of the art and science of Family Medicine, the specialty of Family Medicine and the professional growth of Family Physicians.

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