This Christmas, SONY pictures will release a film titled Concussion, a drama capturing the struggles Dr. Bennett Omalu endured after discovering a pattern of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in autopsies of former professional football players.
CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that results in a wide range of devastating symptoms including depression, Parkinsonism, dementia, and suicidal thoughts or actions. Dr. Omalu brought this information to the National Football League in 2003 but, they simply refused to listen.
The NFL has done their best since to refute the science and prevent this information from getting to the general public, future players and concerned parents. The NFL and former players are currently settling a class-action concussion lawsuit. A federal judge is resolving thousands of NFL player concussion lawsuits based on a plan that will cost the NFL up to $1 billion over 65 years. The suit alleges the NFL didn’t do enough to warn players about the risks of brain damage.
While many articles have been written, and a documentary has been made about this topic, this film starring Will Smith will be the widest exposure of the NFL’s resistance to recognize and address the deadly consequences to NFL players. In a recent interview accompanying the release of the trailer on Peter King’s MMQB, writer and director Peter Landesman talked about his film’s potential impact on the future of football in America.
“… the information has been obscured for a long time, it’s been buried and covered up by people who don’t want to damage the sport—the information is now out there, and I hope this movie brings together the information in a way that the general public can metabolize and now make their own decisions. So now that you know that concussions can kill you and playing the sport can kill you, it’s on every parent and it’s on every college player, it’s on every high school player and professional player on whether you are going to let your child play.”
A colleague of Dr. Omalu, neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes recalls his experience in an interview with GQ from 2009 when he brought Omalu’s research to the NFL.
“They didn’t say, ‘Thanks, Doc, that’s great.’ They got mad at me. We got into it. And I’m thinking, ‘This is a new disease in America’s most popular sport, and how are its leaders responding? Alienate the scientist who found it? Refuse to accept the science coming from him?’ “
The story behind the film is incredible, it is a tale of deception and denial and cover-up that you wouldn’t believe possible in today’s 24 hour news cycle, and by all accounts Smith delivers an excellent performance as Dr. Omalu.