Horace Grant played professional basketball from 1987 through March 12, 2004, when he injured his hip and was unable to continue in that line of work. His last year of employment as a professional athlete was with the defendant Los Angeles Lakers . In 2011, applicant filed a claim of cumulative trauma industrial injury against the Lakers.
The WCJ relied upon the reporting of applicant’s two QMEs to find that applicant was 90% permanently disabled without apportionment to any non-industrial factors. The WCJ implicitly accepted the view expressed by Dr. Styner that the AMA Guides do not straightforwardly apply to the applicant because he is a professional athlete and not a “normal person,” and that the holding in the consolidated Almaraz/Guzman cases authorized the physician to construe the AMA Guides in a way that “allows for a higher rating.”
Dr. Styner justified his rating with the following comments. “Mr. Grant was a professional basketball player for a long period of time, Professional basketball is a profession that is very exclusive and requires the participants to be in superb condition. Professional basketball players are also required to deal with daily severe pain and to be able to perform with severe pain. Furthermore, as part of the conditioning process, the basketball player must stay in tip top shape in order to be able to keep his job. This involves repetitive lifting, running, jumping, squatting, etc while lifting weights far in excess of what the average person can lift. Based on the unique qualifications required to be a professional basketball player, it is simply unreasonable to use the usual charts in the AMA Guides to rate this patient. These charts were designed to measure impairment in the average worker, not a top tier professional athlete such as Mr. Grant. Fortunately for the patient, the recent Almaraz/Guzman ruling has allowed the physician to rate the patient using the any [sic] chart within the AMA Guides that he feels is appropriate and that is what I did in my report of 8/2011. I continue to stand by my rating of this patient.”
The WCAB reversed the award in the panel decision of Horace Grant v Los Angeles Lakers ruling that “Dr. Styner’s application of the AMA Guides and understanding of the Almaraz/Guzman holding are incorrect, and his reporting is not substantial evidence in support of the WCJ’s decision.”
The WCAB reasoned that “Dr. Styner is correct in noting that there is a relationship between an injured worker’s occupation and the level of permanent disability that results from certain injuries. However, that occupational factor is already accounted for in the rating string. In this case, the DEU rater applied the occupational variant of 590J, which represents the most physically strenuous occupations. Thus, reference to applicant’s occupation as a professional athlete as reason to use other than the usual charts and tables in the AMA Guides to rate whole person impairment is unjustified. Moreover, Dr. Styner’s deviation from the usual method of measuring impairment under the AMA Guides just to obtain higher whole person impairment is contrary to the holding in Almaraz/Guzman.”
Because the WCJ’s relied upon medical reporting that is not substantial medical evidence, the December 5, 2012 decision was rescinded and the case was returned to the trial level for further proceedings.