Concussion Focus Needs to Shift from NFL to Youth and High School Football

The movie Concussion, starring Will Smith, opens in theaters nationwide on Christmas. For anyone who cares about safety in sports this is a welcomed development.

Concussion is the story of forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Smith), who while conducting an autopsy of the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Pro Mike Webster discovers a neurological disorder, which he calls chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Omalu publishes his findings and the rest of the movie centers around the drama involving Omalu and NFL powerbrokers.

Concussion will reach a larger general audience (including a lot of mothers who often make the family decision about which sports their children will and won’t play) than previous documentaries and TV specials on football’s impact on the brain. The excellent Frontline documentary, League of Denial, did the hardcore reporting on football, the brain and the NFL’s irresponsible and unethical behavior. But the audience for a PBS movie is minuscule compared to a major Hollywood production, with a large marketing budget, and starring a superstar actor in the lead role.

Many of those entering theaters this holiday season to watch this highly-promoted movie will only be marginally aware of the link between football, concussions, and CTE, the neurological disease resulting from repetitive brain trauma. A lot of them will be leave shocked at what they discovered. As a result, Concussion will likely spark a broad national discussion about the safety of our country’s favorite sport.

As a society, we need to take the attention this film will generate and move it off the NFL and refocus it on youth and high school football. There are less than 2,000 players in the NFL. The number of youth and high school players in this country is greater than three million.

Our children are playing football while their brains are still developing, —> Read More