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Rick Westhead

TSN Senior Correspondent


Lawyers for the more than 100 former National Hockey League players suing the league over its handling of concussions and brain injuries are asking to prevent the league’s doctors from examining a group of former players.

Two weeks ago, the NHL asked a U.S. federal court judge in Minnesota to order former players Mike Peluso, Dan LaCouture, Bernie Nicholls, Steve Ludzik and Gary Leeman to submit to medical examinations conducted by doctors and psychologists hired by the league.

The NHL argued it is entitled to confirm the existence of the players’ alleged symptoms, and asked that the five players, who figure prominently in the NHL concussion lawsuit, to be subjected to blood work, and neuropsychological or psychiatric examinations. The league asked that Ludzik, who says he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000, also take a PET scan, which measures brain function.

Lawyers for the former players asked the court to reject the NHL’s request the same day Ludzik told TSN he would abandon the lawsuit because of the stress and physical demands related to the case. They are asking the judge to allow their own medical experts, under the direction of Dr. Robert Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University, to conduct investigations of Peluso, LaCouture, Nicholls and Leeman within the next 90 days.

“After these examinations have been completed, plaintiffs will allow the NHL to conduct independent examinations in accordance with what Dr. Cantu has identified as being reasonably and medically necessary for LaCouture, Peluso, Leeman and Nicholls,” the former players’ lawyers wrote in a court documents filed late Thursday.

The lawyers said examinations the NHL has demanded are not reasonable because none of them can rule out chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) “and CTE is the neurodegenerative disease these men are most likely to have,” they wrote.

There is no way to prove the presence of CTE, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain linked to repeated brain trauma, in living patients.

While 104 players are now involved in the concussion lawsuit against the NHL, the four players involved in the debate over medical testing are proposed class representatives, meaning their symptoms are similar to other former NHL players of the same era. That would be important if the judge in the case agrees to declare the litigation a class action lawsuit.