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Pens name new medical team

| Friday, July 20, 2012, 12:38 a.m.

The Penguins have fired their longtime team physician, Dr. Charles Burke.

Burke, 57, who oversaw center Sidney Crosby's concussion treatment and Mario Lemieux's career-long back problems, told the Tribune-Review on Thursday night he was informed July 10 that he and the team's medical staff were being dismissed.

The team broke the news to him during its prospect camp at Consol Energy Center, Burke said.

The Penguins are replacing their medical team as part of a proposed move by 2014 to a hockey facility in Cranberry that will be in conjunction with UPMC, the team confirmed in a statement Friday.

Three UPMC specialists will oversee medical treatment of personnel next season, led by Dr. Christopher Harner, president of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. Harner is one of the founders of the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

Assisting Harner will be Dr. Tanya Hagen as associate team physician. Her specialty is internal medicine. Dr. Dharmesh Vyas will serve as the Penguins assistant team physician. Vyas, like Harner, is an orthopedic surgeon.

Either Harner, Hagen or Dharmesh will travel to all Penguins road games. The Penguins will be only the second NHL team with a traveling road physician, joining the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Penguins will have access to more than 15 UPMC specialists as part of the medical staff shake up.

The arrangement between the Penguins and UPMC is similar to the one the Steelers have with UPMC at their South Side practice facility.

The Penguins and UPMC are awaiting approval from Cranberry officials to move forward with their plans.

Burke, an orthopedic surgeon, served as Penguins head physician since the 1988. He was also on the team's medical staff from 1983-86. He is affliated with but not employed by UPMC, just like Dr. James Bradley, the Steelers team physician.

In addition to Burke, EMS workers and vision and dental specialists who worked for the Penguins also were dismissed.

Burke twice cleared Crosby to return to play last season, but Crosby has played in only 63 regular-season games dating to January 2011, when he suffered his concussion.

Michael Collins, a clinical psychologist with extensive neuropsychology training who heads the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, also played a key role in Crosby's treatment for this injury. However, Crosby sought the outside opinion of several other concussion specialists during his treatment, including a chiropractor in Florida and surgeons in California and Philadelphia.

Burke developed, and is past director of, the NHL Concussion Program, the world's largest study investigating the effects of head injuries in sports.

Penguins CEO David Morehouse, who could not be reached for comment, said in the statement that Burke “has been such an integral part of the... medical team over the past 24 years.”

Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Rossi can be reached at or 412-380-5635. Yohe can be reached at

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