Olympic gold medalist criticizes Hockey Canada for paying her $4K for post-concussion medical bills | CBC News

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Olympic gold medalist Katie Weatherston says it was “unfair” for Hockey Canada to tell her she only had $4,000 available to cover medical expenses for an ongoing traumatic brain injury she sustained while playing for Team Canada.

Now he is speaking publicly and questioning Hockey Canada’s priorities in light of recent reports that the organization has paid millions of dollars in settlements over sexual abuse allegations.

“It was a slap in the face back then, when they told me they only had $4,000 to give me,” Weatherston told CBC News.

“And now it’s absolutely shocking what’s come out and they didn’t have money for me, but they have money for this… It’s not fair. I don’t want it to happen to other young athletes.”

Hockey Canada has come under intense public scrutiny in recent weeks for using its National Equity Fund, made up in part of player registration fees, to settle a $3.5 million lawsuit. A woman alleged that she was sexually assaulted while she was highly intoxicated by eight hockey players in 2018, including members of the World Junior men’s team.

Hockey Canada later told a parliamentary committee that it had withdrawn another $7.6 million to pay nine whistleblowers with sexual abuse claims dating back to 1989.

Since then, the organization has defended the National Equity Fund, arguing that it is used “to support anyone who may have been injured or harmed when insurance policies were insufficient.”

Weatherston said he doesn’t understand why this fund isn’t used to pay for his treatment.

In a press release, Hockey Canada told CBC News that the “safety of our athletes” is its “highest priority” and that the organization has different insurance policies or self-insured funds “that may be available” for injured players. on the Canada team sanctioned. events.

The organization said it also has a Health benefits trust that covers some medical and dental expenses that would otherwise be uninsured up to a maximum of $5,000.

Weatherston said that is not enough.

“The medical care I need costs between $30,000 and $40,000 a year,” he said. “I can’t afford to pay that much for my medical bills, so I don’t get the care I need.”

Katie Weatherston said she would return her Olympic gold medal if it meant getting her health back. (Jean Francois Benoit)

Weatherston said that for the past 16 years he has struggled with daily headaches, chronic exhaustion and the feeling that his ears are clogged up, like he’s on a plane with a cold.

She said she is paying about $15,000 a year out of pocket for health care, including physical therapy, chiropractic appointments and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Weatherston said she has also turned to doing her own acupuncture, cupping and massage to cut costs.

His injuries began in 2005 when he flew over the handlebars during a bike race with his team and landed on the pavement, breaking three teeth, according to a Hockey Canada injury report seen by CBC News.

Then, in September 2006, she was hit from behind during an inter-team game at Team Canada’s training camp. Weatherston says her head hit the boards.

A Hockey Canada doctor cleared her during the game to return to the ice, Weatherston said.

Later during the same game, Weatherston collided with a teammate and collided with another in a confrontation. Days later, he said, he ended up in a hospital emergency room with nausea and pain in the back of his neck and upper spine.

‘My head didn’t even hit the ice’

After time off the ice, Weatherson said, his career came to a sudden halt in 2008 after he fell during a casual game in Ottawa.

“My head didn’t even hit the ice,” he said. “I felt like my brain was just sloshing back and forth inside my skull and I knew I was in trouble.”

A Hockey Canada injury report written by an Ottawa doctor and dated October 2012 said that as a result of multiple concussions in 2005, 2006 and 2008, Weatherston was left with a prolonged post-concussion syndrome that was “possibly permanent”.

2006 Olympic gold medalist Katie Weatherston is now a part-time hockey coach, real estate agent, and motivational speaker raising awareness of concussions. (Ashley Burke/CBC News.)

Weatherston said he did not sue or file an insurance claim with Hockey Canada at the time because he still hoped to recover and go to the Olympics again.

“I was 25 years old,” he said. “I thought for sure she would get back in the game.

“You don’t want to face Hockey Canada. You don’t want to be blacklisted.”

Personal injury attorney Brian Cameron reviewed Weatherston’s documents and said that while his situation is “certainly unfair and … certainly unfair,” he waited too long to sue and now the statute of limitations has expired.

“The reality is that if I had sued on time, Hockey Canada is insured,” Cameron said. “He waited too long and now he’s in a situation where it looks like he’s going to have these problems throughout his life.

“And she really, to my knowledge, has no legal recourse against Hockey Canada.”

Weatherston sought a legal opinion in 2013 which found his claim may be “prohibited by law unless a court can determine that Hockey Canada fraudulently concealed its knowledge of concussions.”

Emails seen by CBC News show that it wasn’t until 2012 that Weatherston contacted Hockey Canada for help paying her medical bills.

Glen McCurdie, former Vice President of Insurance and Risk Management for Hockey Canada, appears as a witness at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

According to one of those emails, Hockey Canada’s chief risk management officer, Glen McCurdie, who has since retired, told Weatherston there was an accidental death and dismemberment policy that had a “traumatic brain injury component,” but added that it was “relatively new”. and he didn’t think she would qualify.

Weatherston said in an email to Hockey Canada that he had suffered a “chronic injury and what could be a lifesaver.

“Is there anything else Hockey Canada can do to support their athletes?”

A ‘shot in the stomach’

Todd Jackson, Hockey Canada’s senior insurance manager at the time, responded to Weatherston in June 2014, saying the organization had already paid Weatherston $6,000 for the bicycle accident during training. He offered her another $4,000 to help with her ongoing medical bills.

“Unfortunately, the $4,000 is all I have to work with. I’m sorry,” Jackson wrote in an email to Weatherston.

Attempts by CBC News to reach Jackson and McCurdie through Hockey Canada for comment were unsuccessful.

Weatherston said it was an “extra punch in the gut” to watch the Hockey Canada scandal unfold since May.

“They closed the book on me,” Weatherston said. “I had a great experience with Hockey Canada, some of the best memories of my life. But I also had a terrible experience because I felt like I had been left behind.

“I would definitely return my gold medal in a heartbeat for my health.”

CLOCK | Hockey Canada has paid out 21 sexual misconduct settlements since 1989:

Hockey Canada has paid out 21 sexual misconduct settlements since 1989

Hockey Canada officials revealed that the organization has paid nearly $9 million in settlements since 1989 to 21 people alleging sexual misconduct.

His partner, Alexandra Pinfold, is a registered nurse. She said that she doesn’t understand Hockey Canada’s priorities.

“Why should she suffer when they had the ability to help?” Pinfold said. “That’s not right. It’s an injustice to women in athletics, really.”

Weatherston’s mother, Anna Weatherston, said she now wonders “if it was a great idea to put her in hockey.”

CBC News asked Hockey Canada why it didn’t use the National Equity Fund to help Weatherston with his ongoing medical bills.

The organization said that “out of respect for privacy and confidentiality, it would be inappropriate … to discuss an individual’s specific case through the media.”

“We are sorry to hear that Ms. Weatherston is concerned about her past injuries,” Hockey Canada said in a press release to CBC News. “Should there be any new information regarding her medical case, we encourage her, as we would any member of Hockey Canada, for her to contact us.”

Hockey Canada said his insurer would “make any determination” about his entitlement to coverage.

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