ConcussionBook - 2015
Now a major motion picture starring Will Smith
Jeanne Marie Laskas first met the young forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2009, while reporting a story for GQ that would go on to inspire the movie Concussion . Omalu told her about a day in September 2002, when, in a dingy morgue in downtown Pittsburgh, he picked up a scalpel and made a discovery that would rattle America in ways he'd never intended. Omalu was new to America, chasing the dream, a deeply spiritual man escaping the wounds of civil war in Nigeria. The body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-old named Mike Webster, aka "Iron Mike," a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest ever to play the game. After retiring in 1990, Webster had suffered a dizzyingly steep decline. Toward the end of his life, he was living out of his van, tasering himself to relieve his chronic pain, and fixing his rotting teeth with Super Glue. How did this happen?, Omalu asked himself. How did a young man like Mike Webster end up like this? The search for answers would change Omalu's life forever and put him in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful corporations in America: the National Football League. What Omalu discovered in Webster's brain--proof that Iron Mike's mental deterioration was no accident but a disease caused by blows to the head that could affect everyone playing the game--was the one truth the NFL wanted to ignore.
Taut, gripping, and gorgeously told, Concussion is the stirring story of one unlikely man's decision to stand up to a multibillion-dollar colossus, and to tell the world the truth.
Praise for Concussion
"A gripping medical mystery and a dazzling portrait of the young scientist no one wanted to listen to . . . a fabulous, essential read." --Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
"The story of Dr. Bennet Omalu's battle against the NFL is classic David and Goliath stuff, and Jeanne Marie Laskas--one of my favorite writers on earth--makes it as exciting as any great courtroom or gridiron drama. A riveting, powerful human tale--and a master class on how to tell a story." --Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
"Bennet Omalu forced football to reckon with head trauma. The NFL doesn't want you to hear his story, but Jeanne Marie Laskas makes it unforgettable. This book is gripping, eye-opening, and full of heart." --Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones
From the critics
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While this is not a book about football, I have to admit that I love football and the involvement of the NFL is certainly something that interested me about this story. What I quickly discovered is that I became much more interested in Dr. Omalu's journey from Nigeria to the United States, his subsequent experience with racism (a previously foreign concept) in America, and the way in which these experiences would influence and drive his research and contribution to the medical community.
The author spent a considerable amount of time with Dr. Omalu and his family and she paints a delicate, yet soberingly truthful, picture of Omalu's background; this is the information that really sets the stage for his ultimate struggle to be heard by his peers and break through the corrupt politics of corporate giants. While I do agree with some critics that this is not the whole story and that much of this material was covered in League of Denial, I do think that it is Dr. Omalu's story and that it has merit; there are definitely some unanswered questions, as there should be, and I think that adequately reflects Omalu's personal experience in all of this.
I can honestly say that I'll never watch football the same again (or boxing, either, for that matter); I also listen to Roger Goodell's (Commissioner of the NFL) little speeches on what the league is doing to assist in concussion prevention and research with a higher-than-healthy dose of skepticism after reading this book. I did not have this same reaction after reading sections of League of Denial; I felt much more invested in this story, which is why I think it is such a great read for even those who have no interest in the sports side of this investigation.
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