Forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu made the discovery
of a lifetime when an autopsy revealed something
unexpected in the brain of a former Hall of Fame NFL
player. Dr. Omalu meticulously researched concussions,
hoping to find some explanation of the damage to the
brain of Mike Webster (aka "Iron Mike"). Could the newly
coined CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, be
responsible for Iron Mike's mental decline as well? Step
inside the pages of CONCUSSION and see Dr. Bennet's
journey, from a childhood in war-torn Nigeria to the
doctor who discovered a secret the NFL didn't want
CONCUSSION wasn't exactly the story I expected when I
opened the pages. I expected a far more clinical journey
as we learned how the discovery and diagnosis of CTE came
about. Instead, Jeanne Marie Laskas tells a far more
introspective story, as we see the man behind the
discovery. We learn about Dr. Omalu's own struggles and
search for his place in the world, which adds a unique
dimension to the overall story.
I wanted to cheer for Dr. Omalu and his willingness to
tackle such a powerful monopoly as the NFL. However, the
story kept detouring off in unexpected directions, from a
legal case against Dr. Omalu's former boss, Dr. Cyril
Wecht, to the history of the Nigerian civil war to race
relations in America. I think I would have enjoyed
CONCUSSION a bit more if the storyline had been more
cohesive as it seems Jeanne Marie Laskas tried to do too
much in such a short book.
CONCUSSION is a story that NFL fans will either love- or
love to hate. The NFL has implemented strict protocols in
regards to concussions, but the issue remains deeply
divisive. While I enjoyed learning more about the doctor
who first discovered CTE, I wanted to know more about how
the clinical histories of the various NFL players.
Readers who are looking for a more biographical approach
to the issue will appreciate CONCUSSION.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Will Smith,
CONCUSSION is the riveting, unlikely story of Dr. Bennet
Omalu, the pathologist who made one of the most significant
medical discoveries of the twenty-first century, a
that challenges the existence of America’s favorite sport
and puts Omalu in the crosshairs of football’s most
corporation: the NFL.
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.
body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-
old named Mike Webster, aka “Iron Mike,” a Hall of Fame
for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest ever to
play the game. After retiring in 1990, Webster had suffered
dizzyingly steep decline. Toward the end of his life, he
was living out of his van, tasering himself to relieve his
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
multibillion-dollar colossus, and to tell the world the