Trent Williams’ tumor underscores longstanding question: How skilled are team doctors?

Getty Images

The late George Carlin used to say that, somewhere in the country, there’s a physician who is technically the worst doctor in America. And that someone has an appointment with him tomorrow.

While there’s no evidence that the worst doctor in America is providing healthcare services to NFL players, there’s often reason to believe that these doctors aren’t the best in the country, simply because they have been hired by pro football teams. The story told by Washington tackle Trent Williams at his locker today regarding a tumor on his skull that grew for five-plus years while team doctors downplayed it underscores this reality that teams don’t always hire the best of the best.

FIVE-PLUS YEARS! If Williams’ contention is accurate, that’s beyond unacceptable.

When Williams’ absence from offseason workouts first became noticed in June, we heard that his anger with the team traced to the fact that doctors cleared him to play in 2018 despite the tumor. When attempting to confirm this contention with the team, we were not-so-gently reminded that there “are people in the media who have been sued for violating laws.”

There also are people in the medical profession who have been sued for malpractice. And that’s something Williams should be exploring, especially if there’s evidence that the growth began as benign and later became cancerous after it wasn’t removed.

The team has not yet elaborated on the situation. Again, if Williams’ contention is true, the organization’s failure to undertake any apparent effort to make things right with Williams should make any free agent think long and hard about signing there. Instead of finding a way to work with Williams in an effort to address his concerns, they squatted on him for months.

They should have traded him before the deadline. At this point, they should, at a minimum, pay him for the rest of the season and then trade him for the best offer they can get.

21 responses to “Trent Williams’ tumor underscores longstanding question: How skilled are team doctors?

  1. The skill level can be debated and no doubt varies from one doctor to another. However, what cannot be debated is team doctors have a clear conflict of interest. There are without question times when what the team wants will contradict what is best for the patient.

    When you go see your own doctor with some sort of injury the first thing he’ll tell you is to take some time off work and if you can’t do that he’ll suggest you take it as easy as possible. That obviously is the LAST thing a team doctor would be recommending.

  2. It’s official – Washington are the new Cleveland Browns. How dysfunctional can you get? Putting a players health/life in jeopardy.

  3. This is one-sided. What Trent failed to say is that the team told him that the tumor was benign, that he should have it removed and lastly recommended that he seek a 2nd opinion outside of the team. Trent did not act upon that advice and thought everything was okay. It is NOT the team’s job to ask him monthly or annually whether he did everything that they told him to do.

    1) He waited 6 years to get it removed when they told him to do it asap even though it was most likely benign. He is the one who thought it was no big deal, not the team.
    2) He failed to get a 2nd opinion, independent of the team. He failed.

  4. Every player should be getting second opinions and independent medical check-ups on a regular basis. Team doctors should never, ever be treated as their primary care physician. Don’t get me wrong… by all accounts, Washington’s team doctor(s) screwed-up and should be held accountable for it. But players also need to recognize the clear conflict-of-interest involved.

  5. It’s no wonder that Trent is so angry. I’d be pissed too! ‘This helmet thing’? Are the Redskins serious? That’s their biggest concern?!? A custom made helmet over a freaking cancerous head tumor? That’s just cold hearted man. I’d bet every dollar that I have that if this happened to one of the medical staff’s family members that a custom helmet would be just about last on their priority list and eradicating the cancer would be at the top, and second and third until infinity. Unbelievable! Go get em Trent! Wishing you a long healthy life! Sue the CRAP out of the Redskins and become the new owner!

  6. They are not the players doctor. They are the teams doctor. That alone should motivate all players to have their own physician or specialist on speed dial….

  7. Why are NFL team doctors responsible for the role an oncologist or the players primary physician for that matter. Hire a couple of doctors that specialize in sports medicine and give the players whatever insurance their union negotiates for everything else.

  8. Who pays the team doctors? If it’s the owners or league office, I wouldn’t be surprised if they paid below market rate to medical staff for the ‘privilege’ of working for the NFL.

  9. Why do you think they had to bring in an independent concussion doctor, because the sole job of team doctors is to do whatever they can do to get the player on the field no mater what; first so the owner can pump up their ego and note pay a player that is injured and can’t play and second to keep the head coach employed. The Redskins (and all other NFL) doctors simply don’t care about long term health. Each player should be smart enough to understand that conflict of interest and to have their own doctor.

  10. Maybe the Player’s Union should start directing the players to get 2nd and 3rd opinions on these things and not take the word of doctors who are paid by the team.

    Plenty of documented cases from college and pros where the team docs have had a lot of pressure to get guys on the field that maybe shouldn’t.

  11. The team doctors are paid by the team to get the players back on the field. Players should be aware that these doctors do NOT have their best interests are heart.

  12. It’s really easy to biopsy a growth like that. Deaden it; snip it; and send it off to a pathologist. I’ve had several that were cancerous/malignant that needed followup with a surgeon and I’m doing fine.

    I’ve been going to dermatologists for forty years and have an appointment in a couple of weeks.

  13. I know it may be 1 in a few but I’ll bet Zach Miller would way in on this topic. The Bears staff saved not only his leg but his life. I’d hope these team doctors are as All Pro as their players are.

  14. You would think these teams would want the best of the best to protect these players that they pay hundreds of millions of dollars to.

  15. Sports doctors are not dermatologists or oncologists.

    He’s got tens of millions of dollars, he should have sought a second opinion.

    This still reads like an excuse to me. If he wants out he should just say so, plainly. I don’t exactly blame him.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.