Opening in theatres from director Steve James and Variance Films comes a documentary that as we head into the fall season deals with all the HEAD GAMES.
This documentary is inspired by the book “Head Games” from former football player and WWE wrestler Christopher Nowinski. The premise is that there is a link between head injuries and the sports that cause them.
Nowinski was once a defensive tacked in college before becoming a WWE wrestler. In 2003, a match caused him injury and 12 months later he did not get better. Then he meets Dr. Robert Canter who specializes in concussions.
Chris soon discovers that there is a 50% concussion rate in athletics and believes that a solution must be found or stop playing the game. He wrote the book “Head Games” to discuss what he considers a crisis.
Along with Dr. Canter, they began to open a dialogue about concussions and created the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephaliopathy at Boston University of Medicine. Now Chris’ job is to call families of players who have passed away and see if the family will allow them to study the brain.
One place to start to get people to listen is with the NFL and the National Football League Commissioner Roger Godell. The intent is to try and make football safety. In 2009 a study from the University of Michigan caused changes in the NFL and the guidelines of how concussions should be treated.
But there are more games that have to be addressed and Chris takes on the National Hockey League and women’s soccer. Brendan Shanahan, who is now the Vice President for Player Safety believes in what Chris and Dr. Canter are teaching. Olympic athlete Cindy Parlow also suffers from concussions stating “50 percent of goals are done with our heads” and being knocked out during a 2001 game gives Parlow perspective as well.
Another issue that is discussed is the suicide cases of athletes as well as the rates of dementia in players. This is a documentary especially important for parents and children who want to play athletics at a young age to prepare.
FINAL WORD: Just as I saw this documentary I came across a Sports Illustrated issue with Jim McMahon on the cover along with his girlfriend speaking about the issues she faces taking care of him. McMahon has also talked about the affects of his playing and now his short-term memory is all but gone.
There is so much information in the film and it is important for any parent and child to know but at the same time its such a conflict. Sports are engrained in our national heritage and supported by millions of people. How does one not celebrate their favorite sport, like football, now realizing that players are so severely affected?
More importantly, how does a parent decide what is right for their child when it comes to playing sports at a young age? That is the dilemma that even those in the documentary cannot answer.
TUBS OF POPCORN – I give HEAD GAMES three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. I truly was inspired by the work being done to help protect players of the game. At the same time I am saddened that players who have taken their lives was because their symptoms were not honestly diagnosed earlier so they could be helped.
Speaking honestly, I have always thought there was damage being done to players who were in a sport that have such rough contact. Our society holds players to such a high standard that admitting they are hurt is just not something accepted. Perhaps it is not the players that need to readjust their thinking but the viewers who support their teams.
In the end – how much of you are you willing to lose for a game?