‘Concussion’ film inspiration Dr. Bennet Omalu visits MU

Omalu: “The NFL is an organization that has become toxic in its own success. The players don’t matter to them. [But] the life of one NFL player has greater value than the $19 billion NFL.”

By Lyndsay Hughely | Sept. 22, 2016

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Neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu visited MU on Sept. 14 to speak at the Delta Gamma Foundation’s annual lectureship about his personal views on American football and the NFL. Omalu is a well-known medical examiner who was the first to discover chronic traumatic encephalopathy in American football players. The film Concussion was based on Omalu’s work and starred Will Smith.

CTE is caused by repeated blows to the head, which is a common occurrence come game day. Players who were diagnosed with CTE had medical histories of depression and ended up developing memory loss and dementia.

Omalu first discovered CTE while performing an autopsy in the early 2000s on former NFL hall of famer Mike Webster. His mysterious death from unusual and unexplained behavior greatly intrigued Omalu, causing him to begin extensive research regarding head injuries, eventually lead him to publishing his findings in a journal titled Neurosurgery.

“The NFL is an organization that has become toxic in its own success,” Omalu said. “The players don’t matter to them. [But] the life of one NFL player has greater value than the $19 billion NFL.”

Even coming from Nigeria with no background knowledge of American football, Omalu knew from first glance that the sport was dangerous.

“The fact that you had to wear a helmet to play that game, man, there was an risk of head injury," he said.

Although his medical breakthrough came from an NFL player, Omalu’s primary focus is on all athletes who are exposing themselves to potential traumatic head injuries. He exclaimed his concern for children who are involved in contact sports various times throughout his presentation.

"Our children are our gates of life. We do everything to protect them,” he said. “When you expose them to injury, that is child abuse."

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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