In another sign of the growing concern about head trauma in sports, the NHL and the U.S. ski team will each have at least one concussion expert at the Sochi Olympics.
Dr. Jeff Kutcher, a Michigan-based neurologist, will be in one of two hockey arenas and the on-hill physician for three events on the slopes in Russia.
U.S. ski team medical director Kyle Wilkens said Kutcher will be the association's first specialist evaluating and treating concussions during the Winter Olympics.
"It's such a hot topic," Wilkens said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We're trying to do the right thing with concussion, and that's why he's on board."
Kutcher will also evaluate the neurological health of about 150 NHL players from all 12 countries in the Olympics. Dr. Ruben Echemendia, a neuropsychologist and chair of the NHL's concussion program, will also be at the Olympics — a first for the league, according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
The NHL isn't fond of freezing its league for two-plus weeks and putting their stars at risk for injuries at the Olympics, but the league and the NHL Players' Association both have a degree of comfort knowing that Kutcher will be there.
"Dr. Kutcher is well regarded in his field and has significant experience working with NHL players, so we are pleased he will be in Sochi and is willing to assist with our players while at the games," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said.
Kutcher said he is prepared to tell an athlete he or she can't go for a medal if they have a concussion at the Olympics.
"At the end of the day the decisions that we make, we make irrespective of the situation — we have to," Kutcher said in an interview with the AP. "The alternative is if I let somebody go down another run or participate in a hockey game while they're injured and that injury leads to a more significant injury, it could be life-changing in the negative. That's what I have to worry about."
International Olympic Committee medical director Dr. Richard Budgett is glad Kutcher will be there, too.
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