The Science Behind Concussion
By: CPR @ Jan 21, 2016
For years there has been debate about whether repetitive head traumas can, over time, actually cause degenerative changes to the brain. On Christmas day, a new sports medicine drama Concussion, starring Will Smith and Alec Baldwin, was released in theaters. The movie explores the story of a Pittsburg pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, as he tries to fight the National Football League’s attempts to suppress his research on the traumatic brain injuries suffered by football players. Specifically, Dr. Omalu alleged that the NFL was attempting to suppress evidence his research suggesting that repeated blows to the head could cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
Movies often oversimplify complicated medical and scientific matters so that the viewing audience can easily comprehend the plot of the story. And while a degree of oversimplification took place in Concussion, the science behind the movie was fairly accurate, according to Robert Franks, the medical director of the Rothman Concussion Institute, in an interview by The Inquirer.
Regarding the degenerative nature of the disorder CTE, and how it gradually causes more severe symptoms over time, including depression and emotional issues, the movie is accurate. Concussion details the “downfall”, or mental deterioration, of a few former football players, and explores their struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide.
However, a handful of other aspects concerning the science of concussions were jumbled by the film, according to Franks.
Timeline Is Not Necessarily Accurate
One of the biggest critiques of the movie Concussion made by Franks is that the movie had to compress the timeline on the brain injuries that were shown in the film in order to fit into the length of the movie, which is not necessarily accurate based on real-life development of CTE. One example portrayed in the movie is that the condition is shown as occurring after a single impact, or as a dramatic, sudden change in the brain. While not impossible, CTE generally is a slow onset disorder that takes a long time to develop. A series of traumatic brain injuries over a long period of time often compounds, producing CTE.
Not All Symptoms Of CTE Necessarily Present In Each Patient
The objective of the movie Concussion is to raise awareness of CTE as a disorder that can arise from repeated brain trauma caused by sports injuries. The movie attempts to explain the condition through viewing brain scans and showing patients/players who have symptoms commonly associated with CTE. In doing this, the film gives certain characters struggling with CTE more symptoms than they might necessarily present in real life. Normally patients with CTE present a handful of symptoms.
No Visual Comparisons Made To A Healthy Brain
According to Franks, a powerful, useful and informative image that could have been used in the movie Concussion would have been to do a side-by-side comparison of a healthy brain and a brain afflicted with CTE. However, no such comparison was made during the movie. Many people in the audience will be unfamiliar with what a healthy brain scan looks like to be able to compare it to the scans of the characters with CTE.
Sports injuries can produce brain trauma and brain injuries, which could ultimately lead to the development of CTE. Contact one of the brain injury attorneys at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. today to discuss your case at no charge to you. Call us at (215) 567-3500 or send us an email through our online contact form available here.
Cohen, Placitella & Roth, PC (215) 567-3500