Montador lawsuit brings NHL’s ‘absurd’ stance on CTE to light once again

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has repeatedly denied a link between traumatic brain injury and CTEor chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive head trauma.

“The science of CTE, including the alleged ‘link’ to the concussions you refer to, remains in its infancy, especially as to what causes CTE and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms,” Bettman wrote back for questioning by a US senator back in 2016. “The association between concussions and presumed clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.”

Most recently, in 2019 Bettman continued this denial and fired association between ice hockey head injury and CTE. Bettman’s stance on head injuries continues to be of concern to former players, including former NHL defenseman Chris Therien, who told Sportzshala Sports in 2022 that “Gary Bettman denies that concussions are nearly real.”

This clear contradiction with recent NHL stancearguing with Steve Montador, an NHL veteran with 14 years of experience with six NHL clubs, knew about the risks CTE and head injuries, which ultimately played a role in his death. Montador’s father is currently pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois court against the NHL related to his son’s death in 2015.

“Over the course of his life, Montador has struggled with substance abuse, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and strained/abusive personal relationships,” the NHL wrote in new court documents this week. “Despite the potential long-term risks of head injuries, including CTE, as detailed above, Montador continued to play in the NHL for many years despite being repeatedly warned and informed by many people about the potential long-term risks of head injuries.”

League added:

“Several professionals told Montador that he should stop playing hockey due to a concussion, but ignored these medical professionals and continued his career with additional head injuries,” the NHL continued. “Montador also told the Blackhawks medical staff directly that he was taking a risk by continuing to play hockey at a professional level.”

Referring to his league and Montador’s ongoing injury struggle, the NHL also stated that “none of these injuries could be related to his NHL play.” The league claims that Montador, who fought 69 times and scored 807 penalty minutes in 571 games in his NHL career, suffered a head injury while playing in other leagues.

Will this tarnish the legacy of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman?  (Getty)
Will this tarnish the legacy of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman? (Getty)

While the comments have been criticized by many, according to a leading specialist in brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) Dr. Chris Nowinsky, founding CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the comments themselves are no more dangerous than the NHL’s refusal to recognize CTE.

“Ever since CTE became the subject of discussion in 2007, the NHL has said there is no evidence that their game causes CTE,” Dr. Nowinski told Sportzshala Sports. “Still talking about it in 2023 is absurd.”

Research has shown a link between repetitive brain injury and CTE, especially in sports such as hockey and football. Despite overwhelming evidence from a recent study by 14 leading experts in the field, the NHL has said it will not change its position based on one study. “One medical article does not define our view on these issues.” – Bill Daley, deputy league commissioner, Toronto Star said. “We rely on the unanimous opinion of medical experts to guide us.”

Nowinski says court documents in the Steve Montador case show the NHL knows their own claims are false.

“[CTE] caused by repetitive traumatic brain injury,” said Dr. Nowinski. “This lawsuit shows that even the NHL does not believe in its history. The fact that they claim that Steve Montador was informed of the risk of CTE by the NHLPA at the same time they were telling the players there was no risk, I’m shocked. I think of it as a window into what [the NHL] actually believes, but I also have a lot of sympathy for Steve Montador, at that point in his life, the league that organized the game he played told him he was not at risk for CTE.”

As Dr. Nowinski stated, young people are taught to look up to leagues like the NHL and NFL and trust these organizations as groups “that tried to do the right thing or had a certain amount of moral authority.” Dr. Nowinski says that in the case of Steve Montador, who passed away at the age of 35 in 2015, just four days before his son was born, Montador could believe the NHL was acting on his behalf, despite the evidence.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if Steve believed the NHL…it’s weird but it’s another sign that the NHL when they say their game doesn’t trigger a CTE they know it’s not true but they say it to protect your assets. at the expense of the health of the players and the health of the entire hockey community.”

“They will say anything if they think it will protect their assets,” Dr. Nowinski continued. “They will say that this will not make CTE prevent future lawsuits, but in relation to current lawsuits, they will say that you were informed of the risk by someone else and you should have believed them, not us; that’s what’s going on here.”

In 2018 The NHL was forced to pay $18.9 million settle a class-action lawsuit by more than 100 former NHL players who accused the NHL of “failing to better prevent head injuries or warn players of the risks of promoting violent play that led to their injuries.”

In the case of Steve Montador, his mental state was documented to deteriorate in the weeks and months prior to his death. According to scientific studies with the participation of football players who have suffered concussions and traumatic brain injuries, the ability to manage interactions with others, and “more frequent problems with executive function in activities of daily living” are common features of those who suffer from CTE.

Steve Montador died in 2015 after a lengthy NHL career full of concussions.
Steve Montador died in 2015 after a lengthy NHL career full of concussions.

While no one disputes that Steve Montador was incapable of making his own decisions or taking risks, as the NHL alleges, the link between executive function, decision making, risky behavior, and harm has been documented in people who have suffered concussions and other injuries. traumatic brain injury. As Dr. Nowinski says, while it’s clear that people shouldn’t drive or “make hard decisions, life decisions” in the days following a concussion, the brain does recover at some point. However, when these injuries become repetitive, many of these features become irreversible.

“The more brain injuries you have, the more people tend to engage in riskier behavior,” Dr. Nowinski said. “Your ability to assess risk may deteriorate.”

Dr. Nowinski explained that science is not at the stage where people in their 30s, like Montador at the time of his death, suffering from CTE, cannot make good decisions, but there are examples when this happens. One example, as Dr. Nowinski points out, is the case of former NFL player Phillip Adams, who suffered from CTE at the time when he killed six strangers before taking his own life at the age of 32. According to Dr. Ann McKee, who examined Adams’ brain. , his participation in football “definitely … led” to his CTE diagnosis, and that Adams was suffering from deterioration due to these injuries.

“There were suspicions that he developed obvious behavioral and cognitive problems,” McKee told ESPN in 2021. “I don’t think he broke. It turned out that this is a cumulative progressive disorder. He became more and more paranoid, he had more and more memory problems, and it is likely that his behavior became more and more impulsive. … It may not have been recognized, but I doubt it was completely unexpected.”

The deterioration of Adams’ mind is known to those closest to Montador. As former NHL player and Montador friend Dan Carcillo stated“Over the years I have seen that deterioration [Montador’s] mind, and he must have felt it too. More recently, when he returned home to Mississauga and to his home and saw the number of sets of keys he had for the same lock, it sort of tells you a story about what was going on in his head, about his memory loss and his mental state.”

While Dr. Nowinski was not prepared to claim that Montador suffered from the same disabilities as Adams, he believes that the impact of CTE and traumatic brain injury on decision making is definitely noteworthy.

“I don’t have any evidence that it’s necessarily the case here to say he couldn’t take that risk,” Dr. Nowinski said of the Montador case. “But in general it’s a question we can and should ask and try to better understand how judgment deteriorates with early CTE and the more brain injury you have.”

“If players have had a lot of concussions and are able to self-medicate for those concussions and they could have degenerative brain disease in the process, would they make the right decisions? The answer is that they will make worse decisions than before.”

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Montador’s father Paul recently moved from US federal court to an Illinois state court. The lawsuit, first filed against the NHL in 2015 after his son’s death, alleges that Montador suffered at least 11 unreported concussions while playing in the NHL, including four in 2012. The case continues.

Source: sports.yahoo.com

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