Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review of "Concussion"

It is not often that I anticipate the release of a book and the movie inspired by the book at the same time, but that was the case with "Concussion." While the movie that will be released on Christmas Day starring Will Smith looks very good, I am one who always prefers to read the book first.  So when I saw that this book was available for review just before its publication, I decided to take advantage. I am very glad I did so.  Here is my review of "Concussion."

“Concussion” by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Football (American), biography, medical, death, Steelers

Publish date:
November 24, 2015

297 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

The issue of concussions in football has made many headlines the last few years, enough so that even people who are not fans of the game know about the dangers.  Some of these players, after taking many blows to the head for many years, have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The discovery of this disease and the connection to football player is credited to Dr. Bennett Omalu, a forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh. After Dr. Omalu performed an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, he became both alarmed and fascinated with this discovery.  Dr. Omalu’s story is told in this book by Jeanne Marie Laskas.  Her work, including the first story on this issue, has been featured in GQ and this books shows how good a story teller she can be.

At its heart, this book is really a biography of Dr. Omalu, from his humble beginnings and education in Nigeria to his journey to America where he is thrilled to be working for Dr. Cyril Wecht in Pittsburgh to his battles to protect his name when the NFL is discrediting his work. Bennett, as is he is called throughout the book, is portrayed as a humble and simple man. He seems perplexed throughout the book when he is outside of his comfort zone of the examining room. He cannot understand why the NFL is so intent on discrediting his work and uses physicians for its own studies. When a former football player and professional wrestler wants to be Bennett’s partner to bring awareness to the dangers football players face with concussions, the story makes it appear that this man simply used Bennett’s work for his own gain. 

None of the material is fictional or false, but because of the presentation of only the viewpoint of Bennett in all of these issues, some may feel that this is a one-sided book.  While if one is reading it for fact-finding this is accurate, I felt that reading this book as a biography or even a medical or sports thriller is the better approach as the story makes for compelling reading, especially once the NFL gets involved and uses its vast resources and influence to disprove the dangers of the game and insist that the players are safe.
This story will make the reader think about just how dangerous the game of professional football can be to the players and will also make some readers angry at the smugness of the NFL.  But no matter how one feels about the game or league, anyone who reads this book will feel like he or she knows Bennett and the story of his discovery that has caused waves in a multi-billion-dollar industry.

I wish to thank Random House Publishing for providing a copy of the book via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:


  1. Sounds like an interesting read. I listened to a great audiobook play - Headstrong by Patrick Link - about the brain damage caused to American Football players by repeated headbutting. So bizarre that the NFL would not put the safety of its sportsmen first?

    Stephanie Jane

    1. Some believe, including myself, that the NFL doesn't want to do anything that might make the game less violent as the violence sells. The book touches on that. Thanks for leaving a comment!

  2. I think that concussion continues to be an issue in many sports, and it's scary that with everything we know about CTE, there continues to be so much risk taken with the health of players. I'm surprised that the players' unions aren't more vocal on this issue, especially with the publicity that the movie is generating.

    1. The NFL players union is by far the weakest of the four major sports so they won't have much of an impact. Thanks for leaving a on a non-hockey book as well!

      Just picked one up on Howard Baldwin who used to own the Hartford Whalers. Looks like a fun read.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.