David Chao was the San Diego Chargers’ team doctor for 15 years before he suddenly decided to step down this past week due to “health concerns” and the desire to spend more time with his family. Normally, although abrupt, this decision would be understandable, however Chao has been battling malpractice allegations, multiple lawsuits, trouble with the law, and the NFLPA’s formal review of his history for a large portion of his career as team doctor.
Close to two dozen former patients, including four from previous Chargers players, have filed lawsuits against Chao since 1998 accusing him of malpractice, personal injury, negligence, and fraud, with at least 8 of them being settled with monetary payouts. Along with these suits, Chao has received two drinking-and-driving citations, has been investigated by the DEA for accusations that he enabled a former partner’s prescription drug habit, and may lose his license to practice medicine in the state of California, where the attorney general wants to know why Chao was ordering bottles at the club while one of his patients was losing a leg due to possible negligence on his part. The attorney general is also investigating why it has been reported that Chao’s MRI machines are outdated, inaccurate, and badly maintained, and also has questions about a prescription sedative that was found in the system of his drinking partner and client former Chargers great Junior Seau.
How can a doctor with such a questionable background operate as the Chargers team physician for so long? This is a question that was brought up by NFLPA as they asked the league to launch a formal investigation into Chao’s past. The investigation committee was not allowed to take into account and the lawsuits from Chao’s private practice or his troubles with the law, and earlier this year he was totally exonerated when they decided his questionable private practice has nothing to do with the care he provides Chargers players. Also, of the four Chargers players that did launch lawsuits against Chao, three eventually dropped their claims. Ryan Leaf dropped his when he retired, Jon Haskins when he got a college coaching job, and Greg Jackson’s witness refused to testify. The fourth claim that Chao abetted Gary Losse’s drug addiction and performed a botched surgery, was settled out of court.
In resigning, Chao did what people do when they’re caught up in scandal…run. The excuse that he has medical issues seems to be a front to get out of dodge. I have just provided a summary, but Deadspin has a FULL account of the damning allegations against Chao and they are disturbing. For the Chargers to allow this doctor considered by most players as drinking buddy with a prescription pad to operate on their players for 15 years is astounding. Who knows whose career has been cut short or ruined due to his obviously questionable medical practices. I just hope the attorney general continues to pursue this case, because I wouldn’t want a doctor with so many question marks surrounding him taking my temperature, let alone performing surgery.