Below, I’m running intact an email from fellow author, native Missourian, and relentless activist Matt Chaney. It combines two of my favorite pieces of the American football pathology puzzle (and two people I’m proud to call friends): Chaney’s overlooked book Spiral of Denial, as well as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the unsung father of contemporary chronic traumatic encephalopathy research.
There’s actually a third element here – an old college joke about the editorial cartoons of the celebrated Tony Auth, also linked below – but I’ll spare everyone that detail.
–exquisite editorial cartoon by veteran artist Tony Auth, formerly of 40 years (!!) at Philly Inquirer; for succinct expression of football’s brain risk, nothing’s better… afterward, consider Dr. Omalu’s perspective on the magnificent, delicate human brain (below)….. Auth’s editorial cartoon:
–Dr. Bennet Omalu, Jan. 2011:
Omalu stresses there exists no exceptionally tough brain for the human species by any specimen, from giant football player down to tiny infant.
Omalu challenges anyone to argue otherwise. An avowed Christian and passionate scientist, boasting numerous medical certifications and academic degrees crossing disciplines, Omalu stands his ground convincingly. The human brain became his lifelong study, fascinating him, the most delicate and mysterious life organ, while his path has been earnest, leading him to forge milestone history of sport medicine—and incur wrath of Big Football and Associates.
I know how I discovered (CTE) in Mike Webster. I wasn’t in search of any fame, or any recognition. I was just a young man who was intrigued by brain trauma,” he recalled. “I realized we didn’t know so much about a brain. So I was just doing my bit to understand. I thought the brain was a very sexy organ, honestly. I thought the brain wasbeautiful. I thought the brain was more beautiful than the best-looking woman on earth.”
So because of that enthusiasm, and the excitement, I stumbled across something which I recognized… and God gave me the courage to present it to the world. It was something good.”
Omalu, a soccer player in his Nigerian youth, does not cop tickets from anybody in American football. He does not attend Super Bowls, wouldn’t even on comp, and won’t be in the grandstand at local schools. Doesn’t want to. He cannot watch the nationalistic sport for the evident, genetic carnage among smallest children and largest men.
He is astounded the culture comprehends bone injury for a colliding football player while typically disregarding cerebral trauma as though unseen, benign.
“Because of short-term adrenaline rush, OK?” Omalu declared in zeal that American writers often label as bitterness; typically they misunderstand, non-comprehend, for their ethnocentrism peculiar to football denial. “Almost a masochistic attitude,” Omalu hissed.
“You want to excite people! Almost reminds of the old, ancient Roman gladiatorial sport. You want people to yell and scream! Just for the season. Just for the moment! Meanwhile, you are sacrificing the life of an individual.”
Narrowing to medical analysis, making a base comparison easy for Football America, Omalu discusses and teaches the volatility of head trauma capable of combusting into lasting damage.
“The brain is a post-mitotic organ. It means the brain cells do not have the ability to divide and create new cells. … A very good example I always give people: When you suffer a stroke, your stroke cannot be cured (at cellular level). Once you’ve suffered a stroke, it is permanent. Even if you die 50 years later and we examine your brain, we see the stroke. It creates a space in your brain.
“Same applies to concussions. A concussion is simply fracture. You know how you break your bone? That is what a concussion is, but now it is on the cellular level. A concussion is a fracture of the skeleton of the brain cells. If you fracture your bone, the NFL will keep you out of play for the entire season. They say it is a season-ending injury. But the bone has the ability to divide, and create new bone, and heal. A fracture can become healed, OK?
“But—a fracture of the brain, which is a concussion, does not have the ability to heal as well as the bone. The bone is more resilient, but somebody fractures his bone you keep him out of play for three months. But if somebody fractures his brain? You keep him out of play for only two weeks? Does that make sense even if you’re not a doctor?”
MORE, including Guskiewicz and Cantu, contesting Omalu’s theory of extensive rest for the concussed: