Head Game Movie Providing Head Scratching Already: UPDATE


Irv Muchnick has been using his investigative nature to find out about the new movie “Head Games” based on the Chris Nowinski book and history.  Although the use of alternate media is a wonderful thing and that this movie will at least bring more people to the discussion there are some peculiar things about at least the production and the producers that make one wonder.

Muchnick, who has turned over a new leaf and started to lean away from the ‘nuclear option’ of banning the sport of football period to a more incremental – albeit very conservative incremental (however he does deserve credit for adjusting his train of thought) – approach to limiting tackle football for youth.  However the bulldog that he is, Muchnick has uncovered some interesting tidbits on the new movie, currently he is in Part 5;

The principal funder of the new documentary film Head Games is Steve Devick, a billionaire music and technology entrepreneur, who co-invented and is marketing a sports sideline concussion tool called the King-Devick Test.

On the virtual eve of the first preview screening of the movie in Chicago – originally billed as a “red carpet premiere,” now called a “private sneak peek” – Devick is listed as an executive producer at the website, http://headgamesthefilm.com.

According to a knowledgeable source, Devick controls all rights to Head Games. The documentary is directed by Steve James, whose previous credits include the acclaimed Hoop Dreams. James had told me that the underwriters of his new project were anonymous.

Head Games is said to be inspired by the work of Sports Legacy Institute founder Chris Nowinski, who authored a 2006 book with the same title. Along with Dr. Robert Cantu, Nowinski co-directs the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy at Boston University.

The new film’s trailer also celebrates the journalism of Alan Schwarz of The New York Times. In what I consider a serious blow to the possibility that Head Games might come to be regarded as an independent or comprehensive account of the football concussion crisis and debate, Schwarz not only is interviewed in the trailer, but also is listed as the associate producer. Schwarz told me he left the Times concussion beat last summer, but he has continued to cover the issue in its news pages – most recently reporting on the lawsuit against the National Football League by the family of Dave Duerson.

I agree with Muchnick here it must be noted the possible conflict of interest in this movie, I am hoping that none shows through in the final edition of the film as I am very excited by the line up of those being interviewed in the movie.  Those include: Keith Primeau, Cindy Parlow Cone, Bob Costas and many MD and PhD’s.  One group of people I did not see were the high school athletic trainers, nothing can be perfect.

UPDATE 17:30======

After this post I have done some digging myself and found out that not only is Mr. Devick the largest producer here he in fact has ZERO creative control over any of the film.  It premiers tomorrow night in Chicago I would love to go but have work (girls softball regional playoff game) to contend with.

Perhaps if the likes of Chris Nowinski, Dr. Cantu, Mr. Devick, or any of the other producers that are in town for the Chicago film want to slip down state for a private showing?  Haha…

I do look forward to the film, after all the book is what started my wheels turning for this blog.

6 thoughts on “Head Game Movie Providing Head Scratching Already: UPDATE

  1. brokenbrilliant May 14, 2012 / 19:58

    Concussion issues must be hitting the big-time, what with the escalating drama. Bring money into “finding a cure” and you’re bound to have plenty of conflicts of interest. Ultimately, the real losers are the folks who are promised help, protection, advocacy, etc. When money is involved, those who cannot pay end up with the short stick. And who is less likely to be able to pay, than TBI survivors? Making a living is fine. Making a killing tends to be just that.

  2. Dan May 15, 2012 / 07:11

    I welcome the news that the ‘King-Devick’ test will get additional air-time. After reading about the test in a highly respected, peer reviewed professional journal (Neurology. 2011 Apr 26;76(17):1456-62. Epub 2011 Feb 2. The King-Devick test as a determinant of head trauma and concussion in boxers and MMA fighters.) I was encouraged by this potential alternative to other neurocognitive assessment tools. Rapid sideline assessment of cognitive function in athletes with suspected concussion may not be best served by SCAT2 or SAC, since these measures do not include tests of reaction time or eye movement. And ImPACT testing is too bulky for sideline assessment.
    Although there is clear conflict of interest when a movie producer publicizes a product he intends to sell, there is also an element of this publicity which is beneficial to raising awareness of concussion management.

    • joe bloggs May 15, 2012 / 08:52

      Conflicts of Interest should be made public. The studies have been small and inter-rater reliability is a known problem in its use in delayed development disorders.

      See Cantu’s comments in Philly Magazine (excerpted from Muchnick’s blog).

      “Penn Researchers Study Football Concussions,” http://www.phillymag.com/articles/penn-researchers-study-football-concussions/

      The Penn researchers are neuro-ophthalmologists Steven Galetta and Laura Balcer. The Philadelphia story describes their work and their relationship with Devick.

      The piece also includes this grumpy assessment of the King-Devick Test from Boston’s Dr. Robert Cantu, one of the protoganists of Head Games:

      “They don’t have any background in concussion research. They don’t have a good feel for what concussions are all about. They talk about finding nearly 100 percent of concussions.… We’ll see what the data shows.… I doubt it will be able to predict more than 75 or 80 percent of the time. That’s good enough to rule somebody out, but not good enough to rule somebody in [for return to play]. And we don’t want simplistic tests to let people go back in.”

      Concussion and sports injury have been infused with quick solutions back by very little or very questionable science. Everything from mouth guards to Impact to brain guard supplements have caused this situation to be divorced from scientific reality.

  3. A Concerned Mom May 15, 2012 / 07:47

    I was surprised to see how much it costs to use the King-Devick test (didn’t imagine handheld flip charts and a bunch of cards would be so costly – there are various online options with separate pricing):


    No Online Tracking

    “King-Devick Test Version 1 Physical Test
    10 Score Sheets
    1 King-Devick Test Stopwatch”

    It would be interesting to see what trainers who’ve actually used the test think about it.

  4. A Concerned Mom May 17, 2012 / 10:16


    Short interview with Chris Nowinski on “Head Games” film. He hits on key issues … youngest kids may be most vulnerable, across the board advice to adults to try harder, very simple things can be done to reduce injuries, miss over 90% of concussions …

  5. just a kid July 4, 2012 / 21:29

    is there a site you can watch the whole video on

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