According to Bernie Kosar and his doctor who, “wants you to know enough to know that he’s not a quack,” Bernie Kosar is doing just fine

by Cleveland Frowns on February 11, 2013

If you’ve been paying any attention to the sports page lately, you might have noticed that legendary Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar’s disappearance from public view in the wake of a few bizarre weeks on Twitter that culminated in a completely disassociative radio appearance on ESPN Cleveland WKNR in early December was not actually due to secret meetings with Mike Lombardi about a position with the new Browns front office. Last month, Kosar made national news by way of a press conference with his new doctor, Rick Sponaugle, whose “groundbreaking” work, according to Kosar, was “healing” him, and had him feeling “20 years younger.”

“It was a gift from God to find this and feel like this,” Kosar said on January 10, after 15 “treatments” with Sponaugle. “I see all the symptoms going away.”



If you think this all sounds highly questionable, Sarah Jane Tribble’s recent excellent work on Dr. Sponaugle in the Plain Dealer — including this Feb. 6 report and a follow-up published yesterday — will leave you with more questions and no good answers. 

Both reports are loaded with information and you’ll want to read both of them in full but here are a few highlights:

Kosar decided to receive treatment from Sponaugle after having, “[found Sponaugle after doing research on the Internet,” after which Kosar “arrived at the clinic within days of [the] widely publicized [aforementioned appearance on WKNR].”

On Kosar’s 15 treatments:

[They] included administering an intravenous tube and dietary supplements, both Kosar and Sponaugle have confirmed. But neither will say what the supplements were nor what was fed through the IV tube. IVs are typically used to deliver fluid, nutrients and medication to the body.

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.”

Sponaugle, who is board certified in anesthesiology and addiction, but not neurology, specializes “in a controversial treatment known as ‘rapid detox,'” which “involves placing a patient under anesthesia for hours while they are given drugs to aid what is normally a painful withdrawal.”

According to William Denihan, chief executive of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction & and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, “[rapid detox] really doesn’t set up a person for recovery” and, to his knowledge, “[no] accredited center in Northeast Ohio [performs] rapid detox treatment.”

According to Chris Adelman, medical director of Rosary Hall, “Northeast Ohio’s only hospital-based treatment facility for drug addiction,” rapid detox is “very dangerous” and  “not any kind of procedure that is standard.”

Susan Foster, director of policy research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University says that rapid detox is not an “evidence-based treatment.”

“To the contrary,” Foster said, “There is some evidence to support that it is expensive and dangerous.”

As for other evidence, Sponaugle told Tribble that “he has performed many studies but that he hasn’t had them published because, ‘I do not give all my data away.'”

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “I don’t have time to sit around and gather all the data. . . . I’m very busy, and that’s OK.”

And it’s OK in part because, according to a phone call between Sponaugle and another doctor overheard by Tribble, “I fix the brain so fast anymore … they just fall off the drug because they no longer need the drug to quit this or do that.”

“You know when Bernie reversed, truthfully? Four days. All his symptoms were gone,” Sponaugle said.

Tribble cites a 2003 Media General News Service story about a clinic called “Florida Detox” that Sponaugle ran with a seven person staff, “made up of evangelical Christians who consider Florida Detox to be their spiritual mission.”

And when Tribble asked him if he was paid by Kosar, Sponaugle said, “[Kosar] paid very handsomely, and he should. He’s got more money than me, OK, whatever.”

For the rest, read both of Tribble’s reports (here and here) which include more quotes from doctors, including Sponaugle himself, as well as spilled wine glasses, and a whole lot of pacing and fidgeting. See if you can come to any conclusion but that Sponaugle put Bernie on a morphine drip for 15 days and then told him to call a press conference.

Kudos to the Plain Dealer for dedicating the resources to dig deeper into a story about which the national media displayed a disturbing lack of skepticism.

“I want you to know enough to know that I’m not a quack,” is what Sponaugle said to Tribble at the end of a 5-hour dinner interview.

  • Chris Mc

    “Here’s the deal,” he said. “I don’t have time to sit around and gather all the data. . . . I’m very busy, and that’s OK.”

    “Sponaugle calls the contents of his IV drip proprietary…”

    So there’s absolutely no research to back up any of his claims, and it’s just a flat out cash grab. Got it. Look for Dan Gilbert to open up a satellite clinic in the casino downtown.

    • humboldt

      Right. The fact that he won’t submit his formulation or methods for peer review is deeply troubling. For all we know, he could be using a simple saline drip and engendering results through the sheer force of his personality (actually, this would be the best case scenario in my opinion).

      • bupalos

        I’m about as “troubled” by that as I am by Joseph Smith refusing to show the golden tablets.*

        *As a current owner of the slice of woods where Joseph Smith was almost castrated, I inherit the right and responsibility to do snide Mormon humor from time to time.

        • actovegin1armstrong

          Wow! Bupa the land Baron. Hiram??

          • bupalos

            Hiram indeed. Ancient training ground of the Orange and Brown, scourge of polygamous pederasts, and alma mater mine.

            My claim to the exact slice of woods where Joe almost got the treatment could perhaps be contended. Accounts vary, but two say the crowd took him about a mile from the Johnson farm and if you do a circumference from there part of the circle runs through my property. Also Hiram lore says the doctor lived on Ryder road, so if that’s the way they went and went to the woods in back of that property, it would be either me or my neighbor.

            However there is also a curious little square planted grove of cypress trees across Pioneer Trail a few hundred yards from the Johnson farm that older folks say had a Mormon marker on it back as late as the 1950’s. Coupled with other accounts that say he was taken only “60 rods” (around 300 yards) this looks like the more likely spot.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Wow! Great stuff Bupa.

            I am not trying to be “that guy” and my distant association with famous liars does not begin to rival your’s , but….

            I once had a couple of gin and sodas in a bar where L.Ron Hubbard came up with the lie that he was both a medical doctor and a Nuclear Physicist.

            I have absolutely no respect for Joseph Smith, he was completely clueless.

            Being with one woman is difficult enough. Why, for the love of dog would anyone want more than one wife?

  • GrandRapidsRustlers

    I knew this guy in college who got really drunk and felt amazing after a brief stay in the ER and an IV.

    Say you drink a lot over a period of many years and then get a lot of IV treatments very quickly. You would feel incredible.

    Facts that I am sure of:

    – I am not a doctor.

    – I just want Bernie to get better (as any rational Cleveland fan would)
    – A fool and his money are parted (track record here)
    – This is all just incredibly sad.

    • humboldt

      I presume Bernie was likely dehydrated and semi-poisoned by pills/alcohol. The IV would’ve flushed his system and made him feel like a million bucks. However, the notion that a cocktail of vitamins and supplements can somehow “heal the brain” and reverse neurodegenerative damage is absolutely farcical and deserves every bit of public scrutiny it is receiving.

  • bupalos

    You’d think if you wanted to pull a scam like this you’d have the sense to change your name to something that doesn’t pretty much rhyme with “boondoggle.”

    I hope the proprietary brain-healing juice at least isn’t toxic.

    • SteamingPileOfCraphonsoThorpe

      A small part of me, the part that remembers 1980’s Bernie and grew up loving how the guy with the weird delivery and even weirder gait when he scrambled got everything he possibly could out of his ability, and led the best teams of my lifetime to the verge of the Super Bowl, wants so badly to believe in this “treatment”. That Peter Pan-like little boy wants his hero to be whole again, maybe so he’ll feel less guilty about loving so much the game that crippled Bernie in the first place. I listened to a couple of Bernie’s football-related interviews last week, and he certainly sounds 100,000 times better than he did in that sad Hooligans interview.

      The larger part of me, the cynical, experienced adult part, is screaming that this is way quack-ier than the quack-iest of Chip Kelly’s Quack Attacks. Why am I seeing in my mind a recently-watched episode of the Andy Griffith Show wherein Aunt Bee is snookered by a (literal) snake oil salesman, whose concoction inspires in her a giddiness and energy that is mostly imparted by the (un)healthy dose of whiskey that is the main ingredient of the aforementioned concoction? Is this just Tim Couch Edition Maker’s Mark Whiskey Strength being exhibited here? Say it ain’t so, Bernie.

      • bupalos

        There is every possibility that Kosar’s problems aren’t primarily neurological. Frankly, as I remember it he always had that almost-slurred character to his voice even as a kid just out of the U. Maybe he just got out of hand self medicating all the achy stuff that comes with that gangly body getting crushed every week for years, and maybe whatever pain relief and hydration this snake oil provides– plus a strong placebo effect– is all Kosar really needs to stop self medicating and start feeling better. I hope so.

        But there just isn’t any question at all that this doctor is a total quack. That Bernie is getting some placebo out of this kind of sales pitch is probably the best evidence of CTE we’ve got on him.

  • Tom_RedRight88

    You forget to mention the part where Dr. Phil recommended Sponaugle to his viewers.

    I mean, if you can’t trust Dr. Phil to give sound advice, who can trust?

  • Deputy Glitters
    • Cleveland Frowns

      That would certainly be some 2013-era Cleveland Browns type news. Hmmph.

    • trashycamaro

      Wow…if Haslam dies of anything other than really obvious natural causes, I think we know who the prime suspect will be. Compton was potentially in line to be CEO of Pepsi, then gets tossed on a whim? Ouch.

  • BIKI024

    i have a feeling Bernie gets some kickback for every new patient this Vaffanculo, i mean Sponaugle character brings in..

    in other news, it wasn’t the worst week in the world for taxpaying NEO’ers:

  • GrandRapidsRustlers

    How in the hell is selling gas and charging me what I willingly pay for a Take 5 bar more interesting than running the Cleveland Browns?

    Between a pope walking away and now this I need a drink tonight. Whole world has gone crazy.

    • Deputy Glitters

      Super depressing? Yes. Surprising? Not really.

    • bupalos

      I was just starting to come around on the “billionaire wants a play toy” explanation for the purchase. I’m trending back to my original take that the Cleveland Browns purchase was a strategic political asset acquisition for Pilot/Flying J/Frackytown.

      On which note I hope folks saw this totally natural and unexplainable thing that has nothing to do with fracking of course:

  • bupalos

    Lordy, I’m trying to ignore all the signs of the apocalypse coming to hand this morning. But this shiznit is getting all serious up in here:

    Buffalo Trace. It’s good for you.

    • nj0

      Jack did this about 10 years ago and I haven’t drank it since. Shame I’ll have to do the same for Makers.

    • Tom_RedRight88

      Wish I would have known that when I was in Cancun over Christmas, I would have loaded up at the duty free shop at the airport as they were well stocked.

  • CleveLandThatILove

    It’s also not OK in the UK. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says this in their guidelines:

    “Ultra-rapid detoxification under general anaesthesia or heavy sedation (where the airway needs to be supported) must not be offered. This is because of the risk of serious adverse events, including death.”

    I’m glad Bernie feels better, or thinks he feels better. Clean living can go a long way if he perseveres.

    Pretty simple to produce the before and after scans where the brain atrophy is reversed, except they don’t exist.

    • humboldt


    • actovegin1armstrong

      None of the respective evidence is designed for kids who can discern empirical from hogwash. All amazing anecdotes, fuzzy data and apocryphal details are for the hopeful and sadly helpless consumer.
      I wish we had a chance to speak more freely about modern medicine and research at the Map Room. It was of course completely my fault there was this beautiful redhead with alterna-chick glasses distracting me.
      Well…. maybe next time.

      • CleveLandThatILove

        Hold on – Dorothy Fuldheim was there and I missed it? I’m taking this up with the after hours Executive Committee.

        • dukem1

          A Dorothy Fuldheim shout out! Well, alright!
          Plus, I invented a riddle: When is a cigar smoker not a cigar smoker?
          When it’s Dorothy Fuldheim.

  • nj0

    You can’t convince me that the Pope and Haslam both stepping down on the same day is simply coincidence.

  • BIKI024

    Good looks by Grantland on Cavs’ Shaun Livingston.. could be a great pickup by CG, kid has been playin well for us.

    • Cleveland Frowns


      • BIKI024

        yes, Cleveland sports is that weak that it is nice to see the team get national coverage even if it’s mainly about the worst knee injury in NBA history.

  • MichaelTheRed

    lmao…sounds like Bernie could have saved himself alot of money by just fasting for a couple days. That’s all these “detox” treatments are….getting the body into the fasted state while keeping hydration up. So basically if you fast for 1-2 days and remember to drink water you get the same effect which is the body going about repairing damage…even decades old damage that it never got around to cause Bernie never stopped eating.

    What the body does during fasting is not quackery, all of you should do yourselves a favor and google it. You release massive amounts of growth hormone in that 18-36 hour window. That’s what healed his brain up, if indeed that was what was wrong with him. I think he was just an alcoholic his whole life and went somewhere to dry out under the guise of “detox therapy”.

  • BIKI024

    Cavs 7 point faves again, with 80% on them. smells like a Twolves cover, but could they win SU? #BIKISWEATS

  • The Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugs


    Frownie Road Trip to Toronto, nay, dare I say, Frown-o-to?!?

    • CleveLandThatILove

      103 SBs between Bourn, Kipnis and Stubbs last year – h/t my nephew (who it pains me to say is older than most of you guys). But really, !!!!!!!

      • BIKI024

        i expect our boy Brantley to get some more attempts this year too! plus our defense in outfield might be tops in the league, have a feeling Tribe will have a lot of web gems on Baseball Tonight this year!

  • BIKI024

    anyone see who the Eagles hired as DC? another former Browns coach! LB coach for last 2 seasons Bill Davis rejoins Coach Pat in Philly..

  • KittenMittons

    Thats bull. Talked to Dr. S last night. He reads and he has a hired reader and a book waiting to be published. Im sorry he didnt help you. But he’s saved many lives. Stop killing hope. please,…we need it

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