Concussion – A Powerful Movie About a Very Serious Subject

Concussion should garner significant attention for its message, and Will Smith delivers a performance that, in my opinion, qualifies for an Academy Award nomination.  Smith plays the role of Pittsburgh forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu.  As noted in these soundbites the movie is about much more than football, and Dr. Omalu has a well-earned chip on his shoulder owing to his determination and persistence.

The story centers around the cumulative damage of head trauma in football due to serial concussions.  The NFL tried to distance itself from the fact that its retired players were committing suicide from the brain deterioration that Dr. Omalu dubbed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

There is little doubt that pro football is big business, and that Omalu’s findings represent an inconvenient truth with very high stakes.  The NFL decided to take a pass on helping to fund a major study on the matter, sustaining at least a black eye on public relations.  But what the NFL didn’t do in response the NY Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. launching himself like a torpedo at Carolina’s Josh Norman’s helmet made a mockery of what NFL Commissioner Goodell has had to say on the subject.  Watch Beckham’s vicious helmet-to-helmet attack at the 1:20 mark of the video:

It doesn’t matter than Beckham was provoked by Norman.  What matters is that if the NFL is serious about cutting down on CTE, it must clearly ban blatant assaults on the brain as executed by Beckham.   So did the punishment fit the crime?  Beckham was not ejected from the game, which he clearly should have been.  Then his “punishment” was a one game suspension, and he had the (foot) balls to appeal!  As to not make a mockery of the situation, but preserving the farce, the NFL “upheld” the one game suspension.

I can’t watch boxing because head trauma/CTE isn’t an unintended byproduct of the “sport”.  It is its essence.  I still enjoy watching football, but I’m not sure for how much longer (and I’m not just saying that because my hometown Eagles played themselves out of a playoff berth tonight).  I say that because the NFL is being so disingenuous about something that has now become a life and death matter.  Parents have to understand the risks associated with the game, as do players.  But as the movie Concussion notes, we’re really at a stage that parallels where the tobacco industry was when credible reports of cigarette smoke damage were first circulating.  Hopefully the brilliance of this movie will put pressure on the NFL to act appropriately.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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4 Responses to Concussion – A Powerful Movie About a Very Serious Subject

  1. doctuhdon says:

    the hypocrisy of our society is beyond limits. There is concussion-phobia surrounding the NFL, yet MMA/UFC is a rapidly growing spectator sport, and the incidence of concussions, etc. in the brutal UFC bouts far exceeds that in the NFL; yet…. no one is focusing on this problem.

    • There is hypocrisy there, but hordes of parents aren’t signing their kids of up for MMA/UFC competition. That’s usually an individual decision made by a teen to pursue. People have been calling for a ban on boxing for years that has fallen on deaf ears. Recently I saw a teen soccer player with serious visual issues secondary to mTBI who told us that in practice her coach has them head a ball off the wall (like playing handball with your head) 60 times in succession. That is sheer ignorance to the cumulative effects of head trauma on young brains. And to do that day after day, over the course of four years in high school, is as bad as anything you’ll experience in MMA/UCF. The concussion issue is going to require alot of public education to strike a balance between healthy competition and the risk factors in the way we currently do business in a wide variety of sports.

  2. Thanks, doctuh. (What a difference a week makes!)

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