Terry Ott: Concussion Coverage from Canadian Media is Woefully Lacking

The original purpose of The Concussion Blog was – and still is – to inform those that choose to look about concussions.  Part of this goal has been looking deeper into issues and “lip service” given to the brain injury we know as concussions.  In 2010, when the blog began, this was a novel idea and much of what was written here was “breaking news”.  Along with that, opinions that I shared on the issue were meant to be coming from someone with vast and dynamic experience in concussions.  The initial thought was this was to be a “clearinghouse” for concussion information – and it succeeded.  As years have passed and the media here in the United States has slowly caught on and passed along, mostly, the correct messages TCB has been slower.  However, that does not preclude us from posting information/opinion that we feel needs noticed.  Examples of this have been our white paper on NFL Concussions, the mouth gear controversy and general editorials on published research.

In the past year TCB has been lucky enough to have a journalist spend his own time investigating a part of the global concussion story, in Canada.  Terry Ott, as you may have noticed many of his articles here on the blog.  To be clear, this was all his work and I have become his one and only outlet for his sleuthing and writing.  As he can attest to I don’t always agree with his tact or his tone, but his information is important, especially because in Canada there seems to be a void in the information that would be important to most.  We here at TCB are glad to file his reports as long as he and others understand this is a conduit for discussion and discovery.  I have zero intention of “killing a sport” or “getting someone in trouble”, rather shedding light on some of the problems and issues we face when dealing with concussions.

All of that being said I present to you Ott’s latest (hopefully last here because someone in Canada needs to pick him up) on the concussion issue as it relates to the Great White North.

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WHEN IT COMES TO FOOTBALL CONCUSSIONS, CANADIAN MEDIA BADLY OFFSIDE

Recent New York Times Article Throws Flag

Hamilton, Ontario

October 22, 2014

For the past year readers of The Concussion Blog have learned about the nascent football concussion awareness movement going on in the Great White North, mostly pertaining to how the Canadian Football League, and the mainstream media, have handled-for lack of a better word-the issue.

Years behind the National Football League on the matter, the CFL nonetheless saw the first concussion-related lawsuit come its way last July, accompanied by media attention, much of which was a critical and sometimes downright hostile questioning and smack-down of former 2013  CFL’er Bruce’s groundbreaking statement of claim against the nine member teams of the CFL, neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator, Tator associate Leo Ezerins, and several other parties.

The lawsuit, among other things, alleges that the CFL member teams, and specifically some of Dr. Tator’s published research on TBI and CTE-partly funded by the CFL-mislead Mr. Bruce into believing he was not vulnerable to serious and long-term consequences from concussions he received while playing for the BC Lions. None of the allegations have been proven in court and Tator has filed a defense-covered here previously-that asks for the suit against him to be dismissed, with costs.

Yet other than one small article on former 80s era CFL player Phil Colwell, whose brief story and concussion-related problems appeared in his hometown KW Record paper in Ontario, last spring, your correspondent has been unable to place a single word in any other publication in Canada.

If it were not for Andrew Bucholtz of the Yahoo! Canada CFL 55 yard Line Blog sometimes linking to my stories here, few outside of the Concussion Blog’s sphere ever would have known about what did, and what continues to go on in Canada regarding football concussions and especially, their aftermath. Besides a small mention in the Vancouver Sun by journalist Mike Beamish when the Bruce story hit, no one in Canada besides Bucholtz saw the story as important enough to follow-up, and he has done fine work on his own regarding the concussion problem. As of now, I don’t believe Andrew is on many CFL General Manager or team PR weasel Christmas card lists.  (TSN, the CFL’s television carrier did do a piece on their website about the lawsuit in September that mentioned The Concussion Blog, but it was subsequently removed from their archive shortly after my last story for this site last month, and for reasons so far presumed, but actually unknown at this time to this writer. And I have not seen another story in the Canadian media on the lawsuit since.)

And a week ago, after reading in the Winnipeg Free Press a flattering tome on Dr. Tator from last July that appeared just before he was named as a defendant in the Bruce lawsuit, your correspondent reached out to the paper inquiring whether they would entertain a slightly different take on Tator’s research and related concussion issues via an Op-Ed.

However, after being ping-ponged back and forth between editors at the paper, I was told by an Op-Ed editor that the concussion issue was not “topical,” despite the Jevon Belcher CTE story breaking that week and despite the fact that Winnipeg is home to a CFL franchise. But rather, I was informed,  “Ebola” was of more import to their readers than what is essentially a real world and serious public health concern right now that surely can not be adequately explained by just one or two opinions, opinions which are even controversial within the medical and research community.

Likewise a kiss-off from my hometown CBC News website, whose editor, after some initial back and forth, just stopped responding to my e-mails and never published a piece I wrote on concussions in July even though it partly concerned the former Hamilton Tiger Cat, Phil Colwell.

TVO, the Canadian version of PBS, runs a show called The Agenda-and hell, the guy that hosts it has Hamilton roots!-that never met a contentious or important issue it did not glom on to and yet after receiving one return e-mail from a producer back in July commenting on my “unique” insights, I never heard another word.

Even the nice gal who runs TVO’s documentary film division, after initially offering to ask around if any of the filmmakers she had association with would be interested in the concussion story, none of my further e-mails were answered.

And, after being shut-out by nearly every institution purporting to be doing valid research into football concussions in Canada, I endured a recent 6 week runaround afforded me by the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. which is supposed to be “partnering” with the Canadian version of the Sports Legacy Institute, but certainly did not do much for their reputation for cooperation with journalists trying to ask valid questions.
So after over a month of BS and excuses, I got nadda from them. I actually felt bad for the PR lady who drew the short stick to deal with me, and then she just stopped responding altogether.
To say that some of my dealings with the Canadian media and medical academia would be a joke, would only serve to denigrate comedy.

So obviously, the question is, why?

A veteran of the sports medicine community in Canada speaking on condition of anonymity said that many in the medical community were “afraid” of upsetting Dr. Tator, who carries much weight in medical academia and research grants around these parts.

The source said that many in the closed community are “buzzing” about Tator  being named in the Bruce lawsuit but do not want to be featured in any story seeming to critique the doctor the TSN story described as “renown.”

However, the New York Times apparently does not have a problem featuring a different Canadian medical professional who, unlike Dr. Tator, does not believe CTE  from football concussions is still open for (serious) debate.  Continue reading

Terry Ott: Canadian Concussion Law Suit Begins Its Slow Crawl To Resolution

In July this blog broke the news that Canada was facing its first law suit based on concussions in their professional football league.  Since that time there has been plenty of information, misinformation and general commentary about this issue in Canada.  The fact remains that this is a long way from getting settled, if you remember correctly the concussion issue in America took over a year to get “settled” and even now it is not completely final/finished.  Although there has been coverage in Canada (which has limited this blogs need to post/present about it) Terry Ott continues to beat the trail and get information to  present in his unique way.  With that backdrop I give you Mr. Ott’s latest filing…
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DEE-FENCE!
“Absence Of CTE” Doctor Files Defense in CFL Arland Bruce Concussion Lawsuit, But Claims to be “Outside The Knowledge Of” On Many Relevant Concussion Issues
HAMILTON
September 23, 2014

Just as it was a long way to Tipperary, it is surely a long way to go before the Arland Bruce III concussion lawsuit against the CFL, its member clubs, CFL Alumni director Leo Ezerins and Dr. Charles Tator and Krembil Neurosciences Center (KNC) ever comes close to a courtroom, or even any kind of resolution.

However, the legal equivalent of a punt has begun, and court documents obtained for this story provide for a very interesting if limited insight as to what can be expected in this first of its kind case in Canada.

On Sept. 10, the Vancouver BC firm of Harper Grey LLP, and attorney Nigel Trevethan filed a defense on behalf of Dr. Charles Tator,  denying or described as “outside the knowledge of the defendant” all but three parts of Bruce’s claim, only excepting that:  1. Tator is affiliated with Krimbil, 2. the KNC is based in Toronto,Ont. and 3. that Dr. Tator is the director of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project; these are the only facts that “are admitted” in Bruce’s 47 page statement of claim.

And while much of the above is pro-forma legal to-and-fro tiddlywinks, some of the “denied” and “outside the knowledge of the defendant” defenses as described in the Tator response to the civil claim are, ah, questionable to this reporter. (See attachments provided below.)

For instance, according to the filed document of defense Dr. Tator denies that he knew or should have known that:  Continue reading

Exclusive: First Law Suit Filed in Canada Over Concussions

Terry Ott has filed this BREAKING NEWS in regards to Canadian Football and the Concussion Issue.  We here at The Concussion Blog are pleased to bring this information to you…  You can find the FILED CLAIM HERE.

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FORMER CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE PLAYER SUES LEAGUE MEMBER TEAMS FOR CONCUSSION RELATED INJURY

Lawsuit on Behalf of Star Arland Bruce III Alleges “Fraudulent Concealment” and “Negligent Misrepresentation” By 9 CFL TeamsLeague Commissioner, CFL Alumni Association and Others

Contrary to (popular) opinion, the sports press likes to fling incense, be part of the show, create stars, and to that end prints and televises a fraction of what it knows.” –Mark Kram, formerly of Sports Illustrated 

July 16, 2014
Hamilton, Ontario

The first lawsuit brought against the CFL member teams and others for concussion injury has been filed in Vancouver, British Columbia in the Supreme Court on behalf of Arland Bruce  III, a veteran of 12 seasons as a speedy wide receiver who last played for the Montreal Alouettes in 2013 and also starred on two different Grey Cup winning teams as well as spending the 2003 season with the San Fransisco 49rs.

Bruce, noted in the claim as an “unemployed football player,” is the holder of the record for most receptions in a CFL game (16) and is a three-time CFL All Star.

The claim, so far for unspecified monetary damages, asks for general damages, special damages, general and special damages “in trust” for the care and services provided by his family, and punitive and aggravated damages.

In the claim filed by the Vancouver law firm of  Slater Vecchio LLP and lawyer Robyn L. Wishart, it is alleged that Bruce suffered a concussion and was knocked unconscious in a game played in Regina, Saskatchewan on September 29, 2012 between the BC Lions — Bruce’s team at the time — and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Bruce subsequently returned to play for the Lions in a playoff game on November 18, 2012 and it is alleged that he was still suffering from his previous concussion and it is also alleged he suffered additional concussive and sub-concussive hits during the  Nov. 18 game.

From a copy of the claim, not proven in a court of law, it alleges in part:

  1.  The plaintiff reported concussion signs and symptoms to the BC Lions medical personnel and coaching staff including but not limited to the following:
    1. fogginess;
    2. headaches;
    3. sensitivity to light;
    4. sensitivity to sound;
    5. memory loss;
    6. confusion;
    7. dizziness;
    8. anxiety; and
    9. personality changes.

After the 2012 season, Bruce left the BC Lions and was signed for the 2013 season by the Montreal Alouettes.

Also from the claim: “Further, despite the fact that the plaintiff was displaying the ongoing effects of concussion to medical professionals  and coaching staff, he was permitted to return to play in the 2013 season for Montreal.”

In a 2011 Yahoo! Canada  Sports 55 Yard Line  article by Andrew Bucholtz,  and so noted in the claim, commissioner Mark Cohon said “I am convinced that every concussion is being reported and dealt with. I trust our  doctors. I trust our therapists. I trust our teams to report that.”

And in the 2011 Canadian Football League  concussion “Campaign” directive to the CFL clubs from Cohon advised to “err on the side of extreme caution” when dealing with suspected concussion injury.

Those familiar with my series “3rd Down, CTE To Go,” for the Concussion Blog in 2013 will recall former CFL player Leo Ezerins, now communications director for the Canadian Football League Alumni Association, and Dr. Charles Tator, of the University of Toronto, Krembil Neuroscience Centre, and the Canadian Sports Concussion Project. 

Both Tator and Ezerins believed there were “more questions than answers” between concussion and brain trauma and that “extreme caution” be used in any subsequent diagnosis of CTE.

Accordingly, Ezerins and Tator are named as defendants in the lawsuit and perhaps the most revelatory allegations — again not proven in a court of law — made in the claim are that Bruce continued to play CFL football after suffering concussion  and sub-concussive injuries because:  Continue reading

10/17 Quick Hits

HockeyNow question and answer with Charles Tator (one of the best);

HN: What have we learned about concussions that maybe we didn’t know a decade or two or three ago?

CT: There are about 30 things that we didn’t know just 10 years ago. For example, the adolescent brain seems to be most susceptible to concussion and takes the longest to recover. It’s rather unfortunate because that age is when kids are now big enough and fast enough that they are getting concussions—it’s also the risk-taking age.

Also, women appear to concuss more easily than men; and that holds for sports like hockey and basketball. We’re not really sure why that is but that’s what the data is telling us.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about concussions. We still don’t know the exact mechanism—although, rotational acceleration is more important in producing concussions than linear acceleration. And also, we don’t know how to detect a concussion on imaging techniques; for example, there is no telltale sign on a CAT Scan. And the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is still not showing us the effects of concussion. We are hopeful that some newer sequences of MRI will be more informative.

A concussion is still a clinical diagnosis, meaning that it depends on a knowledgeable examiner, like a physician, as well as a compliant patient. And not all patients are compliant; there are still people who want to hide the symptoms and signs of a concussion.

HN: How important is recognition of a concussion?

CT: All you have to do is look at Sidney Crosby—the fact that he got his first concussion on a Monday and it wasn’t recognized; and then on the Wednesday, he got his second concussion and it took a year to recover. It’s important to sit out until you’ve fully recovered and follow the six-step process of gradually incorporating more physical activity, so that your brain is ready to take another hit. If you run around the block and get a headache and get dizzy, that means your brain is not ready for the next hit and then you’re subject to the serious consequences of another concussion because your brain has not recovered fully from the first one.

Ex-ESPN exec says “Stop denying brain damage“;  Continue reading

CFL and Football Canada Team Up

The Canadian Football League has been very progressive with concussion awareness, in fact it would be factual to say the CFL has been the most progressive in North America in the sport of football.  The eight-team league instituted a standardized sideline test for concussions last year, the SCAT2; and this year they will use tracking software for concussions.  Not unlike the CDC in the States, the CFL and its partners will be distributing educational information via flyers and handouts.  Thanks to SportMed BC we were given the story;

The goal is to educate players and coaches at all levels and dispel any remnants of the old-school gridiron habits where players made premature returns to the field.

“I think that culture has shifted,” CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said Tuesday. “I think that concept has shifted and these guys want to live long and healthy lives. And part of that is managing concussions.”

Other partners include; Continue reading