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By Joseph M. Hanna, of Goldberg Segalla
In a Minnesota federal court on Monday, February 29, 2016, the National Hockey League filed a motion to compel the medical examinations of some of the former players in the concussion MDL suit currently sitting against the league. The NHL argues that in cases of this nature, i.e., those where a plaintiff makes a claim about his current and future mental and physical health, it is routine procedure for said plaintiff to undergo an independent examination. The league’s memo in support argues there exists good cause for a confirmation that the specific injuries plaintiffs claim they suffer from, such as neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, actually are present and were related to their hockey careers.
Specifically, the NHL is seeking the medical examinations of five of the named plaintiffs in the concussion suit, including former Buffalo Sabre Stephen Ludzik. Ludzik has filed for permission to represent a proposed class of ex-players who suffer from CTE and other brain diseases caused from repetitive head trauma while playing hockey.
The examinations the league is calling for may seem fairly grueling, as they would require the former players to undergo 12 to 14 hours of testing, including having blood work drawn and being subject to an MRI. Neurological, neuropsychological, and psychiatric examinations would also be conducted, according to the memo in support, as they are necessary to prove/disprove plaintiffs’ allegations. No timeframe is yet scheduled as to when the motion might be ruled on, but it is worth noting that over the last few months, both sides to the suit have continuously battled over a proposed moratorium on discovery while the league awaits a ruling on its 2014 motion to dismiss.
Thirty-five of the leading U.S. concussion clinicians and researchers are scheduled to join together Oct. 15-16 at UPMC for an unprecedented meeting designed to propose and share nationally the participants’ agreement on the best practices, protocols and active therapies for treating concussions today. The conference discussions, resulting in a Statement of Agreement to be published in the journal Neurosurgery, will be led by chair Micky Collins, Ph.D., along with co-directors Anthony Kontos, Ph.D., and David Okonkwo, M.D., Ph.D., of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh.
Also participating from UPMC are: Anne Mucha, Ph.D., physical therapy; Joseph Maroon, M.D., neurosurgery, Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL consultant; and Tony Yates, M.D., internal medicine, Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL head, neck and spine committee.
Among the visitors actively participating and the guests attending and auditing the invite-only conference are representatives, board members and/or consultants with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Major League Baseball, the NCAA, NFL, NFL Players Association (NFLPA), USA Football, USA Rugby and U.S. Soccer, among others.
The conference’s visiting expert participants, confirmed to date:
- John Almquist, certified athletic trainer (A.T.C.), Fairfax Concussion Center, Fairfax, Va.
- Mark Barisa, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Baylor Institute of Rehab, Frisco, Texas
- Julian Bailes, M.D., neurosurgery, NorthShore University Health/chairman Pop Warner Football medical advisory board, Chicago
- Jeff Bazarian, M.D., emergency medicine, University of Rochester/Institute of Medicine, Rochester, N.Y.
- Josh Bloom, M.D., primary care, Duke Medicine/Carolina Hurricanes, Cary, N.C.
- David Brody, M.D., Ph.D., neurology, Washington U./NFL Neurological Player Care Unit site director, St. Louis, Mo.
- Robert Cantu, M.D., neurosurgery, Emerson Hospital and Boston U./co-chair NFLPA equipment and rules committee and co-founder Sports Legacy Institute, Boston
- Javier Cardenas, M.D., neurology, Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center/Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix, Ariz.
- Jay Clugston, M.D., family medicine, University of Florida/UF, Southeastern Conference and Arena Football, Gainesville, Fla.
- Randy Cohen, A.T.C., University of Arizona/UA associate athletic director, Tucson, Ariz.
- R.J. Elbin, Ph.D., neuropsychology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark.
- Richard Ellenbogen, M.D., neurosurgery, U. of Washington/Seattle Seahawks and co-chair NFL head, neck and spine committee, Seattle, Wash.
- Janna Fonseca, A.T.C., Carolina Sports Concussion Clinic, Cary, N.C.
- Gerard Gioia, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Children’s National Medical Center/Washington Capitals and Baltimore Ravens, Washington, D.C.
- Kevin Guskiewicz, Ph.D., sports medicine, University of North Carolina/ NFL head, neck and spine committee; brain-injury and retired athlete research, Chapel Hill, N.C.
- Rob Heyer, M.D., internal medicine, Carolinas Healthcare/Carolina Panthers and president NFL Physicians Society, Charlotte, N.C.
- Gillian Hotz, Ph.D., behavioral neuroscience, U. of Miami/Miami Project, UM and Dade County schools, Miami, Fla.
- Grant Iverson, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Harvard Medical School /International Brain Injury Association board of governors, Boston
- Geoffrey Manley, M.D., Ph.D., neurosurgery, University of California, San Francisco/contact investigator NIH and DoD TBI consortia, San Francisco
- Tom McCallister, M.D., psychiatry, University of Indiana/ NCAA-DoD concussion consortium administrator, Indianapolis, Ind.
- Tamara Valovich McLeod, Ph.D., A.T.C., sports medicine, Arizona School of Health Sciences/U.S. Brain Injury Alliance, Mesa, Ariz.
- Mike McCrea, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Medical College of Wisconsin/DoD advisor on traumatic brain injury and NFL head, neck and spine committee, Milwaukee, Wisc.
- Beth Pieroth, Ph.D., neuropsychology, NorthShore University Health/Chicago Bears, Blackhawks and White Sox, Chicago
- Ken Podell, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Methodist Concussion Center/Houston Astros, Texans and Rice U., Houston
- Matt Pombo, M.D., orthopaedic surgery, Emory University Healthcare, Atlanta
- Allen Sills, M.D., neurosurgery, Vanderbilt University/Nashville Predators and Mississippi State, Nashville, Tenn.
- Gary Solomon, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Vanderbilt University/Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Tenn.
- Danny Thomas, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis.
- Ross Zafonte, D.O., physical medicine and rehab, Harvard Medical School /American Congress of Rehab Medicine, Boston
“We want to move the needle, and this meeting could do that,” said Dr. Collins, executive and clinical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. “Neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, psychiatrists, physiatrists, family medicine physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, certified athletic trainers, researchers – people from across so many disciplines – are uniting for the first-ever conference to reach agreement on active treatments for concussion. Awareness with no solution is called hysteria; awareness with a solution is called science.”
Dr. Kontos is the research director for the UPMC Concussion Program and associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr.Okonkwo is a professor of neurological surgery and clinical director of the Brain Trauma Research Center at the Pitt School of Medicine.
The Concussion Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin will host a talk entitled Concussion — Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery on August 6 at 7p.m. at the Signe Auditorium.
The presentation, which will be given Michael S. Reardon, MD, the Center’s Neurologist and Medical Director, will provide “beneficial Information for athletes, parents, PE teachers, and trainers.”
For information, call 512-324-4804. The link for the event is at seton.net/wellnessclasses