SM Film Festival: Concussion


Concussion Review: A Wake up Call for Contact Sports?

In the wake of the buzz surrounding the Super Bowl and the ensuing Six Nations, we have the release of Concussion – a film telling the true story of one man who took on the NFL to uncover the dangers of American football.

Simpson Millar Film Review: Concussion

It's typical for us to see contact sports glorified in film, but far less so to see the damaging effects sport related head injuries can cause. It has been described as a 'David and Goliath' tale by Time magazine, but does Concussion succeed in challenging perceptions of head injuries in contact sports?

A Brief Synopsis

Concussion tells the true story of Nigerian American forensic pathologist Dr Bennet Omalu (portrayed by Will Smith) who first discovered Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy (CTE), and his plight to have the danger of this recognised in American football.

Dr Omalu first discovered CTE when testing the brain of American football player Mike Webster. He found that the many blows he sustained in the course of his career had caused this brain injury. CTE (also known as Dementia Pugilistica or 'punch drunk syndrome') is a degenerative disease that can cause depression, memory loss, confusion and impulse control problems. In Concussion, we see the NFL's efforts to keep Dr Omalu's discoveries under wraps.

Raising Awareness of Concussion in Sport

The dangers of concussion in sport are well known, but it's clear that many fail to take heed of advice.

Only last year did we see World Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) lambasted for failing to take concussion seriously; Wales's player George North took 2 knocks to the head, he lost consciousness momentarily after the second blow, and yet still was allowed to remain playing for the duration of the game. Similarly, Ireland has been warned against choosing Johnny Sexton to play in the Six Nations following his most recent head injury.

The hardest hitting parts of the film are arguably those that centred on portrayals of Mike Webster, Justin Strzelczyk and Dave Duerson (American football players) and their struggles with CTE – it shows how devastating this condition is and why concussion in sport must be taken seriously.

Claire Roantree, Head of Serious Personal Injury at Simpson Millar comments:

"It must be remembered that concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury; returning to a game after suffering concussion or having multiple incidences of concussion can have serious consequences for your future."

"It is encouraging to see that the Rugby Union has now taken the decision away from the players on whether to come off for a head injury assessment; it's now compulsory after a blow to the head."

"All sports players, not just those in rugby, should take heed of Headway's motto for sports head injuries: If in doubt, sit it out."

Luke Griggs from the brain injury charity Headway recently spoke with BBC Radio Yorkshire about what we can take from the film:

"The importance for us here in the UK is to not just think this is an American issue… we need to make sure that people in the UK don't just watch this and think this is isolated to American sports; it's not."

Final Score

It's hoped that this film will raise more public awareness over the dangers of concussion in sports. An apt review in Rolling Stone by Peter Travers concludes Concussion is "hardly mandatory pre-Super Bowl viewing for football junkies. But wait. Maybe it should be."

Overall Rating – 5/5

Concussion Rating - 5 out of 5 Stars

Simpson Millar's Brain Injury Experts

Our Head Injury team at Simpson Millar often support individuals left suffering from traumatic brain injuries, and are familiar with many of the problems they face. Many of our solicitors are also members of the charity Headway; Claire is currently organising a fundraising dinner for Headway South West London that will be in June this year.

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