Concussion: “The Movie”

in the dark

In the dark (not for long, I hope): Concussion has hit the theaters.

I was witness to two big events in the world of professional American Football this weekend:  I watched the movie Concussion and I saw the ugly contest which was the Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati NFL playoff game.

Of the two events, the more damning, the more worrisome for the league, was the playoff game.

First, let me start with the movie, as I had intended on focusing on that in this blog post….until the playoff game happened.

The movie was well done overall, I thought.  I am no movie critic (I hope that goes without saying) and I rarely see things on the ‘Big Screen’ any more–I think the great movies came and went in the 60’s and 70’s, when I was growing up (Easy Rider, The Deerhunter, Apocalypse Now….).  Concussion (the movie) is largely a heroic story about one man’s personal struggle and vindication:  Dr. Bennet Omalu vs. the NFL, David vs. Goliath.  There are some typical Hollywood moments (e.g. the romancing of his future wife), but largely the film stays on track regarding the story of pathologist Dr. Omalu and his reintroduction of the term ‘chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)’ into the medical lexicon after his autopsy on the brain of the deceased football player, ‘Iron’ Mike Webster.

And Will Smith does an excellent job, I think, with his portrayal of Omalu.

I approached this movie not so much looking for entertainment, but to see if there were anything new in this story I might learn, and to see how the movie might present the science to the general viewing public.  I don’t think I learned anything new regarding the basic story.  This is not so much a criticism of the movie as an endorsement of the PBS documentary, ‘League of Denial,’ which came out two years ago and went into much more depth than a dramatization ever could.  And as for the science?  Once again, you’re better served viewing the documentary.  You won’t have to hear a clunker of a line like this: “Three cases is the scientific burden of evidence.  We have four.”

Now, on to the playoff game.

I don’t think the NFL will be able to survive if the sorts of hits occurring in this game, regardless of their ‘legality,’ continue. Read more of this post

The 3 C’s of the Season: Christmas, Concussions & CTE

734156_4543971430924_332587260_n

Merry Christmas, from two elves and potential movie-goers this holiday season.

Today is Christmas, and I hope for all of you who celebrate the holiday that you and your family have a wonderful day.

Some of you, over this holiday season that will extend through New Year’s Day, will probably be viewing the movie Concussion, which opened yesterday across the country.  I know I’ll be writing down my thoughts on the movie itself after I have viewed it.

The central story has been told (and many of the characters in that story were portrayed) a couple of years ago in a wonderful PBS documentary called ‘League of Denial,’ which I reviewed in October 2013.  I am looking forward to the ‘Hollywood version’ of the story.  I am also looking forward to the robust debate about the topic of head injuries in football that will ensue.

In the buildup to the movie that has progressed over at least the last month, that debate has already, in fact, begun [in truth for those of us in ‘the business,’ the debate over issues such as the association of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been on-going for some time].  The New York Times has, in particular, seemed to make a point of publishing several articles and opinion pieces on the ‘concussion epidemic.’

As a pediatric sports medicine clinician and researcher, I have been particularly concerned and involved with the concern over the hypothesized association between risk of developing CTE and exposure to head injuries in youth sports such as football.  I am particularly worried that there has been a rush to judgment in the media, and proposed decisions (for instance, to banish youth contact sports) are moving way ahead of the science.  Many of the Times’ articles had me wanting to engage in a conversation with the authors, and so, in that spirit, I drafted a ‘Letter to the Editor (LOE).’

The Times’ word restrictions for their LOEs are pretty tight, and what I am sharing with you below far exceeds their limits.  I wanted to post it here and engage you, my readers in this discussion.

CJSM will be a leader in the on-going publication and dissemination of evidence-based research on the concussions, CTE, and other such issues in the world of sport.  Continue to follow us as we, along with you, wrestle with the questions.

____________________________________________________________

I have been reading with great interest the series of articles the NY Times has been publishing on the topic of youth football and contact sports, including the Op-Ed piece by Dr. Bennet Omalu[1] (“Don’t Let Kids Play Football”) and, most recently, the story of Peter Robinson, “How a Boy’s Concussion Death Changed British Sports.”[2] Read more of this post

5 Questions with Brooke de Lench, MomsTEAM Institute of Youth Sports Safety

brooke in texas

I am pleased to have as our guest today Ms. Brooke de Lench, a pioneer and leader in the field of youth sports safety.  Brooke is founder and Executive Director of  MomsTEAM Institute of Youth Sports Safety, Producer of the PBS movie ‘The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer,” and author of Home Team Advantage:  The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports.

Brooke has become a valued colleague, and someone I think of immediately when I’m asked what relevance social media has for a sports medicine clinician. I first ‘met’ Brooke on Twitter, and as our relationship has evolved, I now find I work with her on a weekly if not sometimes daily basis, addressing youth sports issues of mutual concern.  I am proud that I have become a member of the Board of Directors for the non-profit MomsTEAM Institute, a professional role I have written about in previous blog posts.

Much of the work MomsTEAM has done has been instrumental in advancing the cause of identifying, preventing, and managing concussions in youth sports, and there is a natural affiliation that has developed between this journal and MomsTEAM over the years, with the Institute authoring several blog posts on the research in youth concussions.  Those posts have frequently looked at work that CJSM has published.  Our November 2015 issue has, for instance, two pieces of original research that I suspect may end up in the pages of a MomsTEAM post: Register-Mihalik’s ‘Characteristics of Pediatric and Adolescent Concussion Clinic Patients with Post-concussion Amnesia,’ and  Schmidt’s ‘Does Visual Performance Influence Head Impact Severity Among High School Football Athletes?’

With MomsTEAM gearing up for a collaboration with Sony Pictures‘ Concussion (the movie)–an event that I think will impact all clinicians caring for youth athletes–I thought it was time to interview Brooke on our regularly recurring “Five Questions with CJSM” feature.

_______________________________________________

1) CJSM: How old is MomsTeam Institute and how did you found it?

BD: I established MomsTEAM Institute in 1999 and we launched our first website and workshops in August of 2000. I began writing the “Survival Guide for Youth Sports Parents” in 1998 when Random House offered to publish my book in three volumes over the subsequent five years because I had “so much information.” Instead, I turned to the limitless container of information – the new and emerging internet which was something much more exciting to me. Later in 2006, I did write a book that Harper Collins published.

In 2000, there was nowhere to find independent, objective well researched and well written information for sports parents, and so I brought together a team of experts in medicine, law, journalism, sports, and coaching who along with me as a writer-researcher, began the long journey of providing the very best information on how to keep student athletes safe:  physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually.

Parents always seemed to turn to me with sports safety questions; my triplet sons called these regulars “Moms Team.” Hence the name. Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: