February 16, 2013

Former UMaine hockey player joins lawsuit on concussions

Kyle Solomon left the Black Bears team in the middle of his sophomore year after suffering a series of head injuries.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Kyle Solomon

Photo by Michael C. York

click image to enlarge

Kyle Solomon, the second row, first player from left, in a photo of the 2008 UMaine hockey team.

Photo by Michael C. York

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, "the amount of which is to be determined at trial," and calls for adoption of a series of preventive measures and the creation of a medical monitoring program for college athletes.

Laura Reed, spokeswoman for the University of Maine athletic department, said the university could not comment on Solomon's time at Maine because of health privacy laws. She did not respond to requests for comment about concussions related to the UMaine hockey program.

The NCAA also did not respond Friday to a request for comment. In its response to the original complaint, filed on Dec. 21, 2011, the organization said it was "without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the allegations."

The NCAA has not responded to the amended complaint, which was filed this week.

UMaine coach Tim Whitehead remembers Solomon as a tough, hard-nosed player who suffered concussions before joining Maine's hockey team. He said in an interview Thursday that he was not aware that Solomon had become a plaintiff in the NCAA lawsuit.

"He played the game hard, so it wasn't like he could avoid contact," Whitehead said. "We really felt for him, but the decision to play again was clear ... it was not worth the risk."

Whitehead said his team has had its share of concussion-related injuries this season.

Four players have had to miss games or are currently out with concussions. They include Kyle Beattie, a senior center who is out indefinitely with his third concussion of the season.

"It's not a problem that is going away," Whitehead said. "A helmet is only going to do so much."

He said one issue that the NCAA must address is players trying to hide concussion symptoms from their coaches. Some players want to maximize their ice time even if it means putting their bodies at risk, he said. "We need to find a way to increase player awareness."

Before the season, each player gets a baseline cognitive ability test, which can be reviewed if a player suffers a concussion. But Whitehead said the test is no good if a player tries to hide concussion symptoms.

Whitehead said the speed of the game has increased in recent years, and the plastic in protective equipment is much harder than materials used in the past. Those factors, he believes, have led to more concussions.

"The one thing that hasn't changed is the brain," he said.

Paul Greene, a Portland lawyer who has represented collegiate and professional athletes and teaches sports law at the University of Maine School of Law, said the lawsuit will come down to what the NCAA's duty is to student athletes.

"I don't think it's unreasonable that the NCAA should have regulations in place about concussions," Greene said Friday. "The NCAA has a 450-page manual that directs schools in every other capacity. It has never been averse to regulation." He predicted that the class-action suit will drag on for months, possibly years, and may never go to trial. But he said that in such cases, the outcome is often less important than the public debate. 

-- Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report. 

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:


Twitter: @PPHEricRussell


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