“Concussion” by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Football (American), biography, medical, death, Steelers
November 24, 2015
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.
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