In Concussion Will Smith Portrays Doctor who Revealed Brain Disease in NFL Players

19905363_lThe movie, Concussion, is set to hit theaters in December, 2015. It tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and his battle with the NFL after he discovered the brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and its connection to football. When he published his findings in the journal Neurosurgery, in 2005, the NFL went to great lengths to discredit him and even demanded that he retract the article. Dr. Omalu’s research, and his determination, set off an irreversible chain of events that have changed football and the way we view head injuries forever.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Webster

It all started with a routine autopsy. In 2002, Dr. Omalu was working for the Allegheny County coroner’s office when he was assigned the task of preforming an autopsy on former football star, Mike Webster. Webster had died of what appeared to be a heart attack, at the age of 50, but Dr. Omalu had heard the stories of the tragic turn Webster’s life took after he quit playing football, and he wanted to know what had happened inside of his brain.

Webster had lost all of his money, got divorced, and became homeless. He suffered from depression, dementia, and amnesia, along with severe physical pain. After football, his life fell apart, and from all the stories of his strange behavior, it appears that his mind had, too.

On the surface his brain looked normal, and the MRI and CT scans were normal. It was only in microscopic analysis that Dr. Omalu discovered large accumulations of tau proteins had been killing Webster’s brain cells in areas responsible for emotions, mood, and executive function.

Concussion Tells On of the Most Important Stories of Our Time

If the NFL had had its way, we would not have the public awareness we do now of the dangers of brain injuries. Dr. Omalu’s discovery led to extensive and ongoing research. Now we know that long-term damage can being in childhood sports. We know that you don’t have to suffer a major traumatic event to develop CTE. Repeated subconcussive head trauma is more likely to produce the disease. And those who are living with CTE, or caring for loved ones who have it, are starting to get some answers.

For more information on football safety, check out our History of Football Safety inforgraphic.

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