In early September of 2002, Dr. Bennet Omalu arrived at work and found himself assigned to perform an autopsy on the body of Mike Webster, former Pittsburg Steelers player.
During the autopsy, everything he found seemed routine and normal for a man who had passed away due to a heart attack, yet something was not quite adding up for Dr. Omalu.
Mike Webster had once been a star NFL player who had earned the nickname “Iron Mike” from his hard hits and position as a center for the Steelers. Webster died suddenly following years of struggling with cognitive impairment, destitution, mood disorders, depression, drug abuse and suicide attempts. Dr. Omalu wondered how a man could go from a robust charismatic guy to a man living in his truck.
When he moved to Mike’s brain during the autopsy, he was shocked to see the damage Webster had sustained. The damage that his brain had suffered was similar to that of a boxer. Through research and multiple autopsies on other players over the course of three years, Dr. Omalu gathered information that has changed the way the NFL and their players look at concussions.
In 2005, Dr. Bennett Omalu published his findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy also known as CTE in Neurosurgery, a national journal for neurosurgeons. CTE is a form of traumatic brain injury caused by repeated blows to the head from sports such as rugby and football.
When Dr. Omalu published his findings he found himself facing off with the biggest sport league in America, the NFL. Since Dr. Omalu’s eye-opening research, the topic of CTE in NFL football players has been put in the spotlight.
Penn Live, a Pennsylvanian news center, states “The long-simmering concern over concussions is expected to boil up again with the release of the movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith. After the movie was released over the Christmas holiday, the discussion over CTE and safety for NFL players has been renewed. The broad goal of the movie was to raise awareness of the major damage concussions have in the average American.
Since the movie was released a little under a month ago, it is hard to say what the exact long term effects of Will Smith’s new movie will be. However, it can be said that public awareness has grown over the issue because of it.
One of the most chilling and memorable lines of the movie states, “You turned on the lights and gave [the NFL’s] biggest boogie man a name … you’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week.”
The NFL has been at war with this issue since Dr. Omalu’s discovery. Now the public awaits to see how the NFL will tackle it.