Concussion Parent Review

This inspiring story of a doctor doing what is ethical at great risk also studies society's reluctance to accept unwelcome evidence. Autopsy scenes may bother some, and some profanity is of concern.

Overall A-

Although concussions have always been an expected result of field tackling, Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) suspects there may be real and long-lasting effects for the players who repeatedly sustain this serious injury.

Violence C+
Sexual Content B
Profanity D+
Substance Use C-

Concussion is rated PG-13 for thematic material including some disturbing images, and language.

Movie Review

In Concussion, Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith) is a pathologist working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has a knack of uncovering the cause of death in cases where the obvious evidence is often the greatest distraction. When former Pittsburgh Steelers star Mike Webster (David Morse) finds his way to Omalu’s cadaver table, it would appear the former football player was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, along with a combination of prescription drugs abuse, depression and glue sniffing. Questioning the likelihood of this 50-year-old’s diagnosis, Omalu decides to take a more in-depth look at what was really driving Webster to addiction and self-harming. Beginning in his usual unusual way, the good doctor speaks to the body and asks the deceased to reveal the details of his demise. (This practice is one of many reasons why he is looked upon with skepticism from his co-workers.) After extensive tests, Omalu uncovers a far more subtle reason for the man’s untimely passing. But what this Nigerian immigrant doesn’t understand is that his discovery will threaten one of his new country’s most popular pastimes, and in turn put his own budding career at risk.

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In the home city of one of the most renowned teams in the NFL, Omalu research shows that Mike Webster’s death is a result of thousands of repeated hits to his head over his many years of involvement with football. Even more disturbing is the immediate recognition that most professional players sustain similar injuries, so Webster’s case is unlikely to be unique. The high probability of more victims of “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” or CTE (the name Omalu has given the condition) is news no one wants to hear – especially the National Football League. While many resent the academic paper Omalu has published in a medical journal, his boss Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks) recognizes the validity of the science and agrees that it must be put forward and presented for public view. Providing additional support is Doctor Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin). Previously employed as a NFL team doctor, Bailes has also entertained suspicious that there may be a connection between the sport and some specific cognitive symptoms experienced by former athletes.

Scenes of Omalu performing autopsies may be bothersome for viewers, as initial incisions, explicit medical procedures, preparation of lab samples and blood are briefly shown. However the gory details are kept to a minimum. Other content that may be a concern includes the infrequent use of profanities, amongst which are two sexual expletives.

Based on a true story, Concussion presents not only the interesting story of a medical discovery, but also a study in society’s reluctance to accept evidence that runs contrary to popular opinion. (The script draws similarities between this situation and the criticism faced by those who advanced the idea of an association between smoking and various diseases.) With little knowledge of the sport, Omalu tackles a serious problem looking only for the facts with unbiased eyes. The information he uncovers unwittingly attacks a sacred institution and soon he’s the target of threats and abuse from the sport’s near-religious adherents. Yet no matter how unpopular his work may be, Dr. Omalu feels it would be ethically wrong to bury the findings and continue to let men be injured and succumb to the disease. Motivated by his Catholic faith and with support from his wife Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), this amazing role model forges on, determined to let the truth be known.

Directed by Peter Landesman . Starring Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bitsie Tulloch. Running time: 123 minutes. Theatrical release December 25, 2015. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Concussion here.

Concussion Parents Guide

As depicted in this movie, Dr. Bennet Omalu feels his ethical behavior overrides any repercussions that might result from speaking the truth. What obstacles and threats does he face from those who do not like his version of the facts? Do you agree with his decision to reveal the cause of death of the football players? What do you think about his diagnosis?

How does Dr. Omalu’s ethnic background allow him to see what others couldn’t? What might we be missing due to our cultural conditioning?

Dr. Omalu says, “I knew God and decided to trust his wisdom.” How does Dr. Omalu’s faith influence his decision to uphold high ethical values? Did his efforts to find out what was causing mental illness and early death in football players help or damage others? Is human life always more important than money?

There are concerns now about children playing contact sports. Here is one article addressing this issue.

More About The Movie:
The script for Concussion is based on a magazine article written by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Learn more about the real Dr. Bennet Omalu.

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