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Head games: NHL sends concussion expert to Sochi

Feb 5, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT

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The National Hockey League will have a concussion specialist — Dr. Jeff Kutcher — in Sochi for the duration of hockey competition at the Winter Olympics, the league and player’s association have announced.

”Dr. Kutcher is well regarded in his field and has significant experience working with NHL players,” NHLPA head Donald Fehr said, per the Associated Press. “We are pleased he will be in Sochi and is willing to assist with our players while at the games.”

Here’s more, from AP:

Kutcher will 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.

Kutcher, a Michigan-based neurologist, will work in conjunction with both the hockey and skiing events. He has a lengthy history dealing with athletes and concussions — two years ago, he was named the director of the NBA’s concussion program and serves as both an associate profession of neurology at the University of Michigan, as well as a physician for the Wolverines’ athletic teams.

He’s also the director of Michigan’s NeuroSport Program.

In speaking with the AP, Kutcher acknowledged he could be facing some pressure-packed scenarios when it came to clearing athletes to compete in events — especially during medal competitions — but insisted the athletes’ well-being would come first.

”I do feel a little bit of pressure,” he said. ”I understand the gravity of the situation and needing to first and foremost do my job as a neurologist regardless of setting or scenario. It doesn’t matter if it’s a training run or a gold-medal run or any scenario at all.

“It is the health of the athletes that I’m there for.”

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