Allen v. Minn. Vikings Football Club, et al

Allen v. Minn. Vikings Football Club, et al., No. WC15-5846 (WCCA July 14, 2016)

The employee in this matter appeals the compensation judge’s decision denying temporary partial disability benefits. The employee was a professional football player who sustained multiple concussions. Two concussions were reported to the employer and admitted as injuries (dated November 7, 2010 and December 18, 2011), and two concussions were either not reported to the employer or not recorded as a concussion by the employer (dated November 15, 2009 and October 23, 2011). The employee reported continued symptoms, including light sensitivity and headaches.

On May 29, 2012 the employee retired, stating he was going to focus on his religious ministry. However, when asked in a newspaper article whether his retirement was related to his concussions, the employee stated that the concussions were “part of the equation.” The employee saw Dr. Schlosberg on February 20, 2013 and Dr. Rubin from December 2012 through May 2013. They recommended neuropsychological assessments and neurological examinations.

The employee saw Dr. Noran, who evaluates traumatic brain injuries, on November 11, 2013. However, Dr. Noran did not conduct neuropsychological testing. Dr. Noran opined that the employee’s injuries were permanent and he was barred from contact sports.

Dr. Cronin issued a report on February 11, 2014 based on a medical records review, and a supplemental report dated April 11, 2014. Dr. Cronin emphasized that in order to determine the extent of neurocognitive impairment, a full standardized neuropsychological assessment is necessary.

A hearing was held on March 25, 2015. The employee’s PPD, TTD, and TPD claims were all denied. The employee appealed the compensation judge’s TPD denial. The compensation judge’s TPD denial was based on the conclusion that the work injuries were not a substantial cause of the employee’s reduced wages, since the employee did not show he sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result his concussions.

The WCCA notes that the standard of review on appeal is whether the compensation judge’s determination is supported by substantial evidence; findings of fact are to be upheld unless clearly erroneous. The WCCA also notes that the injured employee bears the burden of proving his work injuries caused his disability. Dr. Cronin stated that traumatic brain injuries cannot be diagnosed without full psychometric testing. Two other doctors, Dr. Schlosberg and Dr. Rubin, also recommended such testing. The judge determined that the employee did not meet his burden of proof in establishing he sustained a traumatic brain injury due to his failure to undergo the necessary testing to diagnose this injury. Due to this failure to prove the traumatic brain injury, the employee also failed to establish the causal connection between his concussions and reduced wages, since he was cleared to continue playing football at the time he retired since. The WCCA affirmed the compensation judge’s denial of TPD benefits because substantial evidence supported the judge’s findings.