The lawyer representing the family of the late Steve Montador called commissioner Gary Bettman’s comments on the link between concussions and CTE shocking.
Montador, who appeared in 571 NHL games with the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks, died on Feb. 15. An autopsy revealed he suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
“From a medical and scientific standpoint,” Bettman said on Thursday about a possible link between concussions and CTE, “there is no evidence yet that one leads to the other.”
William Gibbs of the Chicago-based law firm, who plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the Montador family against the NHL, was surprised at the comments.
“I presumed that he must have been misquoted because it made no sense to me,” Gibbs told The Chicago Tribune. “I guess there has been no medical or scientific study saying that if you have 15 shots of whiskey and drive the wrong way down an interstate highway you’re going to hurt someone. Do we need such a study to know it’s dangerous? Mr. Bettman seems to be saying that there is no link between repetitive head trauma sustained during a professional hockey career and later in life issues, which is shocking in this day and age.”
According to researchers at Boston University, CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head.
Montador was found dead in his Mississauga, Ontario, home at age 35. Over parts of 10 seasons Montador had 65 regular season fights.
“Certainly, we believe very strongly that there is a lot of evidence regarding that correlation and that connection,” Gibbs said. “The only way that one can acquire CTE — I’m no scientist — but I’ve read, is through repetitive head trauma. When we know that someone has been involved in a sport professionally for a decade that encourages fighting, which certainly exposes the brain to trauma, and through the natural course of a game has certainly a propensity to cause trauma to the head, it doesn’t take a genius to add that all together and say professional hockey in Steve Montador’s case caused his CTE.”
The NHLPA declined to comment directly to the Tribune on CTE, but revealed plans to launch an athlete development program next season in partnership with the NHL.