Insurance experts: NHL has idea how many players will develop dementia, Alzheimer’s

By Rick WestHead | TSN

The NHL has a good idea how many of its former players are likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain-crippling disorders, say insurance experts who specialize in the professional sports industry.

And lawyers for the 105 former players who are suing the NHL want access to the league’s insurance policies and related medical documents to see those projections for themselves.

Late Friday, a lawyer representing the former NHL players named Brian Penny filed with the court a motion requesting an order directing the NHL’s current insurer, Chubb Corp., to produce all of its NHL-related documents.

Penny served Chubb with a subpoena for those documents on Apr. 20, 2015, but Chubb, which has been the NHL’s insurer since at least 2001, has refused the request.

Penny declined to comment through a spokesperson. Neither Chubb lawyer David Newmann nor NHL spokesman Gary Meagher replied to an email requesting comment.

“The likelihood that the NHL does not already know the probability of players getting Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases is nil,” said Mark Wahlstrom, the president of Wahlstrom & Associates, a Phoenix company that advises former professional athletes on insurance claims.

“When an insurance company is pricing out a policy for the league, they look at all the risk factors for players, the same as they would with a policy for airline pilots. The insurance company uses that data and statistics to produce an underwriting report that would be given to the NHL.”

Chubb would have compiled actuarial valuations — a type of appraisal that requires making economic and demographic assumptions to predict future financial liabilities — to predict the probability of players suffering brain diseases before the company agreed to offer insurance coverage to the league, said Christopher Fusco, a New York lawyer who has worked on class-action insurance lawsuits filed by injured workers, but who is not working on the NHL case.

“Chubb would look at data from players who have made workers’ compensation claims, look at all the NHL’s internal data and medical records and Chubb would then give an underwriting report to the NHL to say, ‘this is why we are charging you what we are charging you’,” Fusco said.

A group of 105 former players are suing the NHL in U.S. federal court in Minneapolis, charging that the NHL didn’t do enough to warn its players about the long-term risks of suffering multiple concussions. The league, the players say, profited from and marketed violence.

The NHL, on the other hand, counters by saying that any player complaints should be dealt with in arbitration, not in court, because of the league’s collective labour agreement with the National Hockey League Players’ Association. The league also says players could have “put two and two” together about the risks of returning to the ice after brain injuries.

In a May 18, 2015, letter to Penny, Chubb lawyer Newmann wrote that producing the documents “would impose undue burden and expense” on the insurance company. Chubb also objected to the subpoena because it would require the company to “produce material containing or reflecting confidential, proprietary, or trade secret protected information…”

It’s unclear when the court will hear arguments on Penny’s request for an order.
Insurance experts say the concussion lawsuit in the NFL offers a window into the sort of data that has likely been compiled by Chubb and the NHL — the only mainstream sports league to permit and promote bare-knuckle fighting.

As part of a proposed $1-billion settlement in the NFL lawsuit — a U.S. appellate court is deciding whether to approve the settlement after some 175 players opposed it — the NFL was required to make public data about the long-term health of its players. That data shows NFL players are far more likely than the general public to develop Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and other cognitive disorders. If the statistics held by Chubb are anything like those disclosed in the NFL lawsuit, they would be troubling for the NHL.

“It wouldn’t be good news for the NHL,” said Dr. Matthew Lorincz, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and a co-director of Michigan NeuroSport, the university’s sports neurology clinic.

But Lorincz said he suspects the statistics in hockey would not be as gloomy as those in football.

“There can be some big hits in hockey, but there’s not an offensive and defensive line that are teeing off on each other every play of every game,” he said.

The NFL admitted in court documents filed in September 2014 in U.S. federal court in Philadelphia that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems. The league admitted conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.

About 28 per cent of former NFL players — as many as 5,900 — will develop brain injuries that would merit compensation under the terms of the settlement, but only 60 per cent, or 3,600, of those players were expected to file medical claims, the NFL said in court filings.

According to assumptions produced by lawyers for the NFL’s actuaries and disclosed in September 2014, NFL players younger than 50 had a 0.8 per cent chance of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, compared with less than 0.1 per cent for the general population.

For players aged 50 to 54, the rate was 1.4 per cent, compared with less than 0.1 per cent for the general population. That gap between the players and general population widens as the age of players increases.

The actuarial data presumes that 220 living NFL players have dementia now, and that about 1,500 will have the disease in the future.

The data was released publicly in response to petitions made by several media organizations and several of the 5,000 former NFL players suing the league.

Not everyone believes it’s a certainty that the NHL has data related to players and brain disease.

Robert Boland, who teaches sports law at New York University, said that even if Chubb has documents about players developing dementia, it’s possible that they were never shared with the NHL.

“If you’re the league, you don’t want to know this data,” Boland said. “If you become aware of it, you really do have to deal with it. If this data is out there, and the NHL knew about it, it really does become a smoking gun against the league.”

For insurance companies, understanding risk is critical.

There are more than five million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., where there is no socialized Medicare, and the average monthly bill for a private room in a skilled nursing facility in the U.S. costs $6,900 per month, according to the American Elder Care Research Organization.

Then there’s the cost of medication.

“When someone has these illnesses, there is not enough money in the world,” Wahlstrom said.

Wahlstrom said he’s currently working with a former NFL player who is hoping to receive $620,000, his potential payout as part of the NFL’s concussion lawsuit settlement.

“The average time from when someone begins exhibiting symptoms until when they need full attendant care is three-and-a-half years,” Wahlstrom said. “Maybe he’ll be able to squeeze two or three years out of his settlement.”

“Again, that’s why the insurance companies want to know what their risks are going to be. Medical care can produce a very big bill.”

Don’t forget the beer and chips. Game on!

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How To Enjoy Watching The Super Bowl Even If You Know Literally Nothing About Football

How To Enjoy Watching The Super Bowl Even If You Know Literally Nothing About Football

By Lauren Zupkus, HuffPost Entertainment & Andy McDonald

Hey non-football fans, no one is going to appreciate you showing up to their Super Bowl party, drinking all their beer, going HAM on their guacamole and then complaining about how lame football is. But how do you get in on the fun when you literally don’t know a touchdown from a hole in the ground? There’s a golden rule your unemployed uncle probably shouted at you on your way to your first job interview that totally applies here: Fake it til you make it, baby.

Here are the Do’s and Don’ts Of Watching The Super Bowl Even If You Have No Idea WTF Is Going On:

DO: Make sure to tell the dude peeking over your shoulder at your phone screen that you’re texting your bookie. Rattle off something like, “If they don’t score here, I’ll probably miss the spread.”

DON’T: Admit that you really are texting your bookie, but it’s about your stakes in the Puppy Bowl.

DO: Assure the party of your passion for the game by always speaking with authority (read: a loud voice.)

DON’T: Claim football as your favorite sport. That’s just setting the bar unnecessarily high for yourself from the get-go.

DO: Mutter under your breath throughout the game one of the following curses (choose ONLY one):

  • “F**kin’ Roger Goodell …” (NFL Commissioner)
  • “F**kin’ Pete Carroll …” (Seattle Head Coach)
  • “F**kin’ Bill Belichick …” (New England Head Coach)

DON’T: Hum along to Katy Perry during the halftime show. They’ll be onto you, dammit!!!

DO: Memorize some ambiguous phrases for you to scream at the television:

  • “Open you eyes, ref!”
  • “Man, that secondary …”

DON’T: Mention anything about how ill-fitting the players’ clothes are. I mean, they look like they’re running around in crop tops and capris, amirite?!?!

DO: Appear to periodically question the refs’ decisions by saying things that are non-committal.

  • “Oh, I’m not sure about that.”
  • “Are they going to do this all game?”
  • “Who let the replacement refs on the field?”

DON’T: Get too excited about any one play, unless you hear noticeable shock and awe from those of whom you’ve established are the more seasoned fans. In which case, a very general “OHHHH” face will do.

DO: Reference last year’s Super Bowl but only to say how boring it was.

DON’T: Stress. As long as you follow these steps, you totally got this. Goooooo sports!

Montreal area hockey player awarded $8 million after being paralyzed

By Stephanie Marin


MONTREAL _ A Montreal-area hockey player who was 16 when he became quadriplegic after a bodycheck from behind propelled him into the boards has been awarded $8 million.

One of Andrew Zaccardo’s lawyers said the amount handed down in a judge’s ruling this week might be a record in such a case in any sport.

Stuart Kugler said the decision is also important for other reasons.

“It is a reminder to all hockey players and coaches that checks from behind are not acceptable and are strictly prohibited because they can cause catastrophic injuries such as those suffered by Andrew Zaccardo,” Kugler said in an interview Wednesday.

Zaccardo has been unable to walk and has had to use a wheelchair since being hit by Ludovic Gauvreau-Beaupre in 2010. He also has limited use of his hands.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Daniel W. Payette concluded in his judgment that the rule of law still applies on the ice.

Payette, who was able to watch the bodycheck because a parent had filmed the incident, dismissed Gauvreau-Beaupre’s argument he did not mean to hit Zaccardo and that he wasn’t able to stop before contact was made.

“There was nothing accidental in the gesture,” Payette wrote, adding that Gauvreau-Beaupre’s version of events was “neither credible nor reliable.”

The judge pointed out that Gauvreau-Beaupre didn’t brake, try to change direction or minimize contact but rather used his arm to slam his opponent into the boards and even jumped in the process.

Gauvreau-Beaupre, who was sanctioned for a similar incident two years earlier, argued bodychecks are part of hockey and that there is an inherent risk when taking to the ice.

“He is wrong,” Payette ruled.

“I hope, and the (Zaccardo) family also hope this judgment, as well as a reminder that players should not hit from behind, will result in no other cases of people playing hockey for fun and then having to spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair.”

Gauvreau-Beaupre and the insurance company involved have 30 days to appeal the ruling.

The Montreal Gazette quoted Zaccardo’s mother, Anna Marzella, as saying the family is happy with the ruling but still devastated by what happened.

“We truly hope that this judgment reminds all hockey players to never check from behind, and that this judgment helps prevent other hockey players from getting severely injured like my son Andrew did,” she said in a statement to the newspaper.


Magic Johnson adds life insurance co. to empire

Kaja Whitehouse, USAToday

Retired basketball superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson just added a $14.5 billion life insurance company to his growing business and sports empire, Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE).

On Tuesday, MJE, which Johnson founded in 1987, said it completed its planned acquisition for a “majority, controlling interest” in EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, which manages $14.5 billion in annuities, life insurance and other financial products.

MJE acquired a roughly 60% in EquiTrust from Guggenheim Partners, the New York-based financial giant that bought EquiTrust in 2011. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but Guggeheim no longer owns a stake in the insurance company, said Paul Miller, COO at EquiTrust.

MJE announced plans to buy a stake in EquiTrust in January 2014. Miller attributed the delay in closing the transaction to the “legal and regulatory” requirements.

Over the years, Johnson has amassed a small empire of investments in sports teams, entertainment assets, restaurants and other businesses through MJE. But the purchase of EquiTrust marks the former Los Angeles Lakers point guard’s first big push into the financial services sector.

The purchase could lead Johnson to speak more on financial literacy education, acting as a kind of spokesperson for his new company.

“We believe financial literacy relative to estate and retirement planning is integral to the community,” said MJE spokewoman Christina Francis. “A well-capitalized company like EquiTrust gives us the platform to accomplish that objective. The company can promote financial literacy in the minority community by emphasizing the importance of life insurance for estate planning and annuities for retirement planning,” she said.

MJE’s portfolio also includes:

*A stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team

*An investment in Hero Ventures, the company behind The Marvel Experience, a theme-park attraction featuring Marvel’s famous heroes and villains

*A stake in the Los Angeles Sparks Women’s National Basketball Association team

*The Comcast channel ASPiRE, which celebrates the African-American experience

*An investment in Vibe Holdings, a New York-based magazine and television company that focuses on the urban market.

Under MJE’s ownership, Guggenheim will continue to manage money for EquiTrust, MJE said. Miller said the company’s management team will remain the same under the new ownership and that say-to-day operations “will remain largely unchanged.”

Johnson has done business with Guggeheim before, including joining the investment firm in the record $2 billion deal to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team in 2012.

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