Gridiron Heroes and the Movie

mv5botqxotq2ntixmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwotazotu3nte-_v1_sy317_cr60214317_al_Being part of the concussion space there are many different things that come to my inbox. Much of that is garbage and thinly veiled attempts at advertising for something that I am not interested in.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email about a movie that I had heard of in passing; Gridiron HeroesI did not know what it was all about but the co-director, Seth Camillo, encouraged that I see this. He never said it was ground breaking but told me it is “documentary about the important issue of brain and spinal cord injuries that are sustained on the football field.”

I was given the opportunity to screen the film and I must say that I was not disappointed by the hour and 17 minutes. (Trailer below)

It begins with a overview and reason for a foundation called Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation; the injury and subsequent paralyzation of Chris Canales. Although rare in occurrence this type of injury does happen on the football field. Instead of being overwhelmed by this difficult situation and blaming the game the Canaleses went about helping others that found them selves in this unfortunate situation.

Catastrophic injury and death should never be tolerated in sport, but like in life there are circumstances where they happen in freak accidents. This is not unlike car accidents that are no fault of anyone and understanding that life comes with some risk. The Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation set upon trying to heal and help those that have no clue what is happening and how to come to grips with the “finality” of these injuries.

The movie interviews former professional players – most notably Decon Jones’s raw and honest opinions, “players in the game” like Alan Schwarz, as well as those afflicted regarding the sport and where it sits in their eyes. The movie even takes on the issue of repetitive brain trauma and concussion.

This movie is not about tearing down the game/sport it is about facing the realization that football can be a risky endeavor for some and that instead of ignoring and looking past the issues, taking them on is the better way to approach this.

I am not a movie reviewer, per say, but I can tell you that this is worth your time and money (all profits from the film go to the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation). This would be appropriate for anyone that is around football a lot like coaches and parents. It is not intended to scare but to inform, mainly about the foundation, but about the sport.

Seth Camillo and Andy Lauer did a fine job of telling a trying story not only of Chris Caneles and those like him, but of the sport of football.

You can get the movie on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Walmart Entertainment, Google Play and Dish Network.

If you have seen it feel free to comment on it, here.

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” – Continue reading

Pioneer Moving On

There is one person in the media that can be classified as the pioneer of “concussion coverage”, his name is Alan Schwarz.  Since roughly the mid-2000’s Schwarz has been on the beat of national stories involving concussions.  He was recently nominated for a Pulitzer for his work in the area and now he has moved on.  According to Irv Muchnick, Schwarz’s title has changed to “national education reporter.”

I echo the sentiments of Muchnick; Schwarz opened up the national dialogue on concussions, he is one of the main reasons people have begun to pay attention.  Just think without him and the New York Times we may have never heard about Chris Nowinski, Bennet Omalu, the Boston University Brain Bank, etc.  No matter where anyone stands on the current protocols/research/assessment for concussions, A LOT of this discussion should be attributed to Alan Schwarz.

To be honest it was a huge “bucket list” goal that I was quoted in a Schwarz article Continue reading

Congrats Alan Schwarz

Alan Schwarz of the New York Times is a Pulitzer Finalist for Public Service in Journalism.  We here at The Concussion Blog thank him for his work; his writing has been top-notch and ahead of the “game”.  Congrats Alan!!!

The New York TimesFor the work of Alan Schwarz in illuminating the peril of concussions in football and other sports, spurring a national discussion and a re-examination of helmets and of medical and coaching practices.

NOCSAE; Alan Schwarz Follow Up

As we mentioned going into the Winter Board Meetings of NOCSAE, renowned reporter on head injuries, Alan Schwarz of the New York Times, was in attendance.  Yesterday we posted parts of the press release from Arizona, in this article Schwarz dives deeper, and using his incredible knowledge about this issue went much deeper than a presser;

“We ultimately came to the conclusion that yes, it would be desirable to look and study and try to understand if we can come up with a meaningful youth football helmet standard,” said Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University. He added that a lower-force standard (which Nocsae requires for lacrosse helmets) and tests for more complex rotational forces would be pursued, but said, “The science that tells us where we should set it is not available today.”

Cantu was followed by David Halstead, Nocsae’s technical director and top expert on helmet physics, who theorized that football concussions derived from forces too numerous and complex for helmets to protect against them any better than they currently do. He said that testing helmets against rotational forces “will not lead to a reduction” in concussions, adding, “We’ve got a lot of information, but we don’t know what to do next.”

There was a lot of information talked about behind closed-doors, Continue reading

Alan Schwarz: Helmets

The most profound writer about the head injury issue in sports is by far this man, Alan Schwarz.  I posted yesterday about the AP story from New York about the meeting of NFL minds addressing helmets and concussion safety.  As we all know and see on a daily basis here, I am a hack job when it comes to writing! (haha)  With that being said here is a link to the NY Times story by Alan Schwarz.

The league’s head, neck and spine committee invited helmet manufacturers, physicists, military biomechanists and more to a Manhattan hotel ballroom, where ideas and various brainstorms wafted like flakes in a snow globe. The question was what might stick.

“There are different approaches — that was clear,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ neurosurgeon, Dr. Joe Maroon, added, “The problem is there’s still more questions than answers.”

Collecting Information

Fred Mueller has been running the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research in North Carolina for three decades, as Alan Schwarz writes on

Finding information about injuries has become easier throughout the year with the invention of the world-wide web.  Before that the Center had to hire news reading services to find what he was looking for.  Now with the awareness after a horrible event, some even call Fred Mueller.

Not only did Alan Schwarz once again explain a part of the process that someone is doing, he shed light on things that may be missing in the recent concussion discussions.  Fred Mueller has written a book, it will be out very shortly, titled Football Fatalities and Catastrophic Injuries 1931-2008.

As that book goes to press, Mueller continues to take his phone calls and scours the Web alongside file cabinets that read “Football Fatality Reports” and “Cat. Cases,” short for catastrophic. He seeks the stories nobody wants to hear, the most gruesome job in sports.

“You could look at it that way,” Mueller said. “But you can also look at it as the best. You’re preventing deaths and disability injuries. That can be pretty satisfying.”

NOCSAE Changes?

Since the early 70’s football helmet standards have remained the same.  When NOCSAE (the helmet certifying group) began, the number one issue was skull fractures, so they set up standards to prevent these horrible injuries.  This was a very big and important step, but since the standards were implemented, testing for those standards have not changed.  Until now, perhaps, thanks to people like Alan Schwarz and those in the concussion community.

Mr. Schwarz ,who writes for the New York Times (have I mentioned how much I like this guy?) published yet another piece on concussions, this time the focus on the NOCASE possibly addressing the elephant in the room.  Helmets do not protect against concussions, yet they market to that effect.

Nocsae’s single testing standard, used by all levels of football from pee-wees to professionals, considers only the extraordinarily violent impacts that would otherwise fracture skulls. It has little to do with the complex forces believed to cause concussions, and has not been changed meaningfully since it was first published in 1973.

The Nocsae standard has been criticized by outside experts, and even some Nocsae officials, for being outdated.

Helmets Protect for Concussion, WRONG.

Once again Alan Schwarz has published a VERY, VERY good article pertaining to concussions.  In this article in the New York Times he has looked at the outdated helmet standards by NOCSAE.

That assumption, made by countless parents, coaches, administrators and even doctors involved with the 4.4 million children who play tackle football, is just one of many false beliefs in the largely unmonitored world of football helmets.

Helmets both new and used are not — and have never been — formally tested against the forces believed to cause concussions. The industry, which receives no governmental or other independent oversight, requires helmets for players of all ages to withstand only the extremely high-level force that would otherwise fracture skulls.

CLICK HERE for entire article.

ALS and Concussions

A research study delved into the association of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease and head injury, more specific brain trauma.  Boston University and the VA published such information in Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology.

The New York Times (and you guessed it Alan Schwarz) posted about this research on August 17, 2010 and wrote the following;

Doctors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., and the Boston University School of Medicine, the primary researchers of brain damage among deceased National Football League players, said that markings in the spinal cords of two players and one boxer who also received a diagnosis of A.L.S. indicated that those men did not have A.L.S. They had a different fatal disease, doctors said, caused by concussion like  trauma, that erodes the central nervous system in similar ways.

The Chicago Sun Times and their Soccer Blog wrote about the same thing on September 22, 2010, but how it has affected soccer players;

The findings could shed light on the increased incidence of ALS in contact sports. An Italian study of 7000 professional soccer players from 1970 to 2002 showed 18 of them diagnosed with ALS The study showed Serie players were seven times more susceptible than the non-playing population.

This is a serious issue and important finding, as the life long effects of concussions have yet to be fully discovered, in fact a lot has yet to be discovered on the frontier of the brain.

Loopholes in the Laws

I must say the New York Times, and Alan Schwarz, is ALL OVER the concussion issue.  Appearing today in the Sports section he wrote about the Lystedt Law, in Washington state.  The law was enacted to protect the student-athlete, as we have discussed on here previously.

Two parents in Sequim, a small city northwest of Seattle, criticized how a local hospital handled their sons’ treatment after the boys sustained concussions playing high school football this month, with one player’s discharge papers reading, “May return to sports when able.” The other player received no medical attention on the field because emergency technicians were required only for varsity games, and he was on the junior varsity.

Another player’s mother who asked the Sequim School District to begin a baseline neuropsychological testing program — which can assist in evaluating when a player has recovered and can return to play — was told that such testing, “due to liability and legal issues, is not recommended either by the insurance provider” or the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

This is a clear reason why this website and another like it (a website run by a mother from the Sequim school district) are here.  Education, period. Continue reading