“Punch drunk” is a term used to describe the condition of boxers who suffered brain damage from repeated blows to the head. The technical name for this condition is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and the symptoms often include confusion, lack of coordination, mood disorders, and slurred speech. CTE is also the subject of an upcoming movie staring Will Smith.
The film is called Concussion and is due for release on Christmas day. Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born doctor who discovered a link between playing football and developing CTE. Dr. Omalu found evidence of CTE in retired Pittsburgh Steeler and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at the age of 50. Since then more than 50 former players were diagnosed with CTE posthumously, among those being Dave Duerson and Junior Seau.
Distributed by Sony Pictures, Concussion will focus on Omalu’s struggle with trying to get the NFL to recognize the risk of brain trauma from playing football. As with the controversies surrounding such movies such as Captain Phillips and American Sniper, how much creative license the moviemakers took in producing Concussion will certainly be a matter of future debate. That being said, consider that the NFL agreed to a settlement with more than 5,000 former players to provide significant financial relief – up to $5 million dollars per player – to cover medical expenses resulting from repeated head trauma.
Also, in 2012 the NFL announced that it was donating $30 million dollars to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund research for brain trauma and other injuries affecting athletes. “We need to be able to predict which patterns of injury are rapidly reversible and which are not,” says Story Landis, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “This program will help researchers get closer to answering some of the important questions about concussion for our youth who play sports and their parents.”
Although the big lines on Christmas day will be for the new Star Wars movie, Concussion promises to be an important film that should help educate more coaches, athletes and their parents on the serious matter of traumatic brain injury in sports.
Kim Goss, MS
Editor in Chief, BFS magazine
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