Before ‘Concussion’ Omalu was still Omalu

In two weeks time people will be going to the movies to see the screen adaptation of a forensic pathologist that unintentionally made the giant business of the N.F.L. weak in the knees. In the movie ‘Concussion‘ mega-actor Will Smith becomes a little known West African doctor, Bennet Omalu.

To many Dr. Omlau has been a recent discovery due mainly to this movie but also the discussion surrounding it, including Dr. Omalu’s op-ed piece in the New York Times. To a small circle of people his work and voice has been around much longer.

Early in 2011 Matt Chaney – a tireless cataloger of football catastrophic injuries and outspoken author/journalist – had an interview with Dr. Omalu. In this interview you can see that Dr. Omalu is still the same concerned medical practitioner as he is now.

With permission from Matt, I am publishing the transcript of his interview. Do with this what you will but Dr. Omalu takes on all sorts of issues surrounding the concussion discussion.

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BENNET OMALU

January 15, 2011 by telephone with Matt Chaney

Q. What football likes to do; this is what I learned in 20 years in the anti-doping issue, where we have so-called testing, and protection of players against drug use. Foremost, it’s very clear now, according to a host of experts worldwide, that so-called testing for steroids is bogus. It does not work. It’s invalid. It has huge faults in terms of its applications. Well, point being, football especially—but other sports too, especially the Olympics, and baseball, are learning by their example—football likes to [chuckle]… When it has a problem for which it’s being criticized for, it likes to go out and stable the science. It likes to go out and fund and/or hire scientists, to put together its prevention packages, and act like everything’s hunky-dory. And they do not share their science. They say they have a test, but they do not open it up to [peer review]—

Omalu: [he interrupts] A very good example, because WWE’s guilty of the same thing.

Q. Oh, really?

Omalu: This so-called ImPACT testing. That is a fraud, in my opinion. ImPACT testing is not a diagnosis tool. It is a forensic followup [model] to monitoring, to quantify or to evaluate the amount of damage. And to monitor, to see how a patient is improving.

Using the ImPACT testing in the acute phase of injury, to determine the amount of damage, actually makes the damage worse. Am I making sense?

Q. Oh, yes. Yes.

If anything, it actually makes the damage worse. OK.

I can allow you to re-cord if we’re going to talk about the science of concussions. You can re-cord, yes [pronouncing like ‘hit record’] …strictly the science ..… Just ask me questions specifically on the science.

Q. Yes, that’s kinda what I’m—what I’m interested in is the science. Let me say straight up I totally agree with your link of brain damage to football. I’m not even worried about that. I, I am, I totally agree with it, I have expert scientists, especially Chuck Yesalis of Penn State, who loves your literature, he loves your evidence, and he is also an historian on boxing injuries. He is well-familiar—he knows much of the literature that you’ve often referred to from boxing, as far as long-term brain damage—

Omalu: Why don’t you re-cord about, keep your questions strictly of the science. …

 

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Cantu Interview with SportsLetter

Thanks to a heads up serial emailer I was able to not miss this interview of Dr. Robert Cantu, appearing in the SportsLetter – it appears to be written by David Davis.  There were some very good questions and answers, below is a sampling;

SL: When did you first realize that concussions in youth sports were becoming a major problem?

RC: When I was a sideline physician for a high school football team over 30 years ago.  That’s when it occurred to me that we needed some written guidelines for returning our young athletes to the field of play after they suffered a head injury.  That’s what led me to write the first Return to Play Guidelines back in 1986.

I’m a strong supporter of youth sports, but no head trauma is good head trauma.  You cannot condition the brain to taking blows. If you subject the brain to enough head trauma, permanent brain damage may happen.

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SL: In your practice today, what are the most common myths — the most common misconceptions — about concussions among youth athletes?  Is it that there has to be a contact sport involved?

RC: I think the number-one most serious misconception is that you have to be rendered unconscious to have suffered a concussion.  More than 90 percent of athletic concussions occur without any loss of consciousness.  There are 26 symptoms associated with concussions, and loss of consciousness is only one of those.

Another very common myth is that concussions become exponentially worse as you accumulate them, so that your first one will be more mild than your second, and your third will be worse than your second one.  That’s just not reality.  The concussions happen to be whatever they are based on the forces involved.  I’ve seen many individuals whose first concussion was much more severe than subsequent ones.

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SL: How is a concussion involving a youth athlete different than a concussion involving an adult athlete? Continue reading

Fink on the Nickel

Will Carroll is not only a talented writer, for Sports Illustrated, he also has is very own podcast.  It is a unique show as it melds sports and technology – one of the few podcasts I catch when they come out.  Will took the time to interview me about two weeks ago about the concussion issue in the NFL, and although it was only about 15 minutes in length we could have talked for hours.

In this episode, titled “Big Dog” Will discusses the NFL, MLB and concussions; my interview can be found at the 47 minute mark.