Dr. Bennet Omalu on Protecting our Children
A few weeks back I briefly touched on the Hollywood blockbuster, Concussion. The movie is set to release this month featuring award winning actor Will Smith. It is no secret that for many years I have been an enthusiastic advocate for notifying the public of the likely consequences of repeated contact injuries – And this news headline wave is entirely to great of a podium to pass it up!
A recent New York Times article by Dr. Bennet Omalu himself vividly and thoroughly explains the dangers of our children playing contact sports. He uses comparisons we can all related to, such as the dangers of smoking cigarettes and alcohol use. At one point in time, we as a society were not largely aware of the dangers of these addictive, easily accessible items. Over time, we have since limited their availability to children, set rules in place and overall have a better understanding of the potential ramifications. While it may seem dramatic to hear initially, the comparison that a child that plays contact football is as likely to grow up and suffer the results of repeated trauma – as a smoker is likely to develop cancer during his or her lifetime as a result of the substance use.
Using yet another Hollywood comparison, think of it as a real life version of the Hunger Games. The movie series depicts a tradition in which individuals are selected to fight solely for the purpose of entertainment, and without regard for their safety. Football is so deeply ingrained in our society as a tradition, that having our children play seems harmless at the 10,000-foot view. I am here to tell you with absolute certainty that is not the case.
The True Story: Closed Head Injuries
Since I took an interest and began to really research the potential injuries that accompany contact sports, it is incredible how many advancements have been made in medical science. It is absolutely undeniable now more than ever that closed head injuries have immediate and long term effects.
As mentioned in Dr. Bennet Omalu’s New York Times article, a child that plays football that is studied during and after a season of the sport is likely to show signs of cellular damage to his or her brain. This can even occur if the child did not officially receive a concussion or impact injury! Simply participating in the repeated behaviors of the sport is sufficient enough to have a devastating, long term impact. If a child continues to play the sport, it is almost 100% certain that he or she will develop CTE, the condition that Dr. Omalu ‘founded’ in 2002. This degenerative, irreversible damage is present in 96% of NFL football players that have died in the last decade.
Children suffering from closed head injuries can also show signs of depression, memory loss, suicidal behavior, learning disabilities and more. Back in the day, when two players collided and one or both did not get up, the commentator would say, “Well he got his bell rung. He needs to shake it off and get back in there!” We now know that these cellular injuries within the brain cause irreversible damage. The consequences are sickening.
As a personal injury lawyer for 34 years, I have developed a sub-specialty in closed injury cases. Tragically, many of my clients suffered a blow to the head as a result of a work place injury, car accident, slip and fall, or being dropped during a medical procedure. The byproduct of these injuries are nightmarish not only for my client, but their entire family.