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“Concussion” – A Movie Review from an Athletic Trainer’s Perspective

Posted February 12, 2016

By Claudia Curtis, MS, LAT, ATC

As a moviegoer, I found “Concussion” to be very well done. The plot flowed well, did not feel too drawn out and the acting was superb. Will Smith did an excellent job portraying the main character, Dr. Bennet Omalu, taking you on his journey and making you feel what he felt.  It gave insight into what was happening behind the scenes for years regarding chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) before the American public was aware of the situation. The movie was produced in a way to keep all kinds of viewers engaged, science for the healthcare professionals, game footage for the sports enthusiasts. The footage shows a lot of big hits, frequently without proper technique. In terms of a cinematic experience, I was pleased with my movie choice.

However, as an Athletic Trainer (AT), how did I feel watching “Concussion?” First and foremost, I was horrified at the way  ATs were portrayed in the movie. This movie focused mainly on the neuroanatomy and the discovery of CTE, not necessarily something  Athletic Trainers have a role in. However, there is one scene where “trainers” are mentioned, and it is done in a rather ignorant way. The scene discusses the fact that the NFL did research prior to Dr. Omalu regarding the presence of CTE.  However, the “researchers” named on the study were a rheumatologist, an equipment manager and a “trainer.” The response to that comment was, “Don’t they just tape knees?” This is a pretty large stage for our profession to be improperly represented, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth that lingers even now.

The impressions I took from this movie span far beyond that one scene though. This movie made me feel a variety of emotions: sympathy, anger, fear and confusion to name a few, alternating throughout the scenes. The person I saw the movie with, a non-healthcare professional, after the movie said, “I wish they had given us more information about what’s been learned since this all started.”

What I realized is that there aren’t a lot more answers right now, but rather that more questions have developed with time and research. How many years of impacts might cause CTE? Does it matter the level of sport played (high school vs. college or professional sports)? Does it matter if consciousness was lost? Are we doing the right thing to prevent this in our concussion recovery programs? Will these concussion return protocols prevent CTE?

I could probably fill an entire page with questions. There is one I’m still asking myself: Is this movie enough to convince high school kids of the real danger that concealing concussions could have long term