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Concussion, December 2015
by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Random House Trade Paperbacks
ISBN: 0812987578
EAN: 9780812987577
Kindle: B00S3RIMBQ
Paperback / e-Book
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"An introspective look at the deeply divisive issue of concussions in the NFL"

Fresh Fiction Review

Jeanne Marie Laskas

Reviewed by Debbie Wiley
Posted December 18, 2015

Non-Fiction Sports | Non-Fiction Biography

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 revealed.

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.

Learn more about 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 discovery that challenges the existence of America’s favorite sport and puts Omalu in the crosshairs of football’s most powerful 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. 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.

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