CLEVELAND — Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar's glowing assessment of a doctor's work to ease Kosar's slurred speech, insomnia and headaches has created a buzz amid rising interest in sports concussions.
Kosar, who publicly discussed his treatment last month, said he has been inundated by calls from NFL players wanting to know more about Dr. Rick Sponaugle of Palm Harbor, Fla.
"It works for me, that's all I know," Kosar told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in an interview published Sunday.
Sponaugle, who treated the 49-year-old Kosar in December, is a medically trained anesthesiologist who graduated from West Virginia University's School of Medicine in 1982. He did his residency at the University of Florida and has made Florida his home ever since.
Sponaugle's website, sponauglewellnessinstitute.com, said he provides programs for 14 brain-related ailments, including trauma, Alzheimer's disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Sponaugle said that 70 percent to 80 percent of his patients come to him for something other than addiction.
Kosar found Sponaugle after doing research on the Internet and arrived at the clinic within days of Kosar's widely publicized radio interview in which his speech was badly slurred and rambling.
Kosar said that by the time he met Sponaugle, he had seen many doctors but failed to find relief from years of headaches, insomnia, slurred speech and a persistent ringing in his ears.
Sponaugle said Kosar had previously been prescribed pain pills by doctors and that more recently he had been given sleeping pills.
Kosar's treatment for what he describes as his concussion-related problems began with four days at Sponaugle's Florida clinic. He spent a total of 15 days there in December and was expected to return in January, according to Sponaugle.
The treatments included administering an intravenous tube and dietary supplements, both Kosar and Sponaugle have confirmed. According to The Plain Dealer, neither would identify the supplements nor what was fed through the IV tube.
Sponaugle calls the contents of his IV drip proprietary and said Kosar was awake throughout his treatment.
Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston University neurosurgeon and brain-injury researcher, said using IV therapies and supplements to treat brain trauma is not standard practice.
Omega 3 oils and DHA, among other nutritional supplements, have been tried but none has been proved in double-blind studies to be effective, Cantu said.
The theory, he says, is that such supplements, many of which are known to be anti-inflammatory agents, improve blood flow to the brain, helping to heal damage. But Cantu said he was not aware that such therapies have been shown to improve post-concussion syndrome.
The interest in concussion and its causes, long-term effects and possible cures has increased in recent years.
In 2009, as news reports about former players' medical treatment received national attention, Congress held hearings on the cognitive dangers of professional football and, in response, the NFL adopted rules designed to better protect players.