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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Dr. Bennet Omalu speaks during a news conference Tuesday at IPFW.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017 1:00 am

'Concussion' doctor feels he's vindicated

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

Children under 18 shouldn't engage in high-impact sports such as football, hockey and boxing, the doctor who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy from repeated concussions said Tuesday in a news conference at IPFW.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, portrayed by Will Smith in the movie “Concussion,” was the final speaker in IPFW's Omnibus Lecture Series.

Omalu was a neuropathologist fresh out of school when he discovered significant brain damage in former professional football players. Omalu was largely dismissed as a no-name doctor and his findings initially ignored.

Asked if the NFL has done enough to protect players from head injuries, Omalu said he hasn't spoken to the NFL and that it is a business.

Instead, he said, CTE is a public health issue and society has a moral duty to protect the most vulnerable people – children.

“We protect children from cigarettes and alcohol, and they can't join the military,” he said. Adults have the right to do what they want, he said.

Omalu spoke Tuesday night for the Omnibus Lecture series. As of Tuesday afternoon, 1,200 tickets had been issued.

He spoke to the media in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Omalu cited a Swedish study that followed 1.1 million people for 42 years and discovered that those who had suffered concussions were more likely to drop out of high school, not go to college, be less successful and suffer from several other shortcomings.

Omalu spoke of what he calls confirmational intelligence, in which people live their lives in ways that fit in with the views of society. Instead, he said, people need to liberate themselves. The world can change, he said. The man of 2017 isn't the same as the one of 1917, and the man of 2217 won't be the same as today.

Omalu said he has a son who is 7 and beginning to use big words. He asked, should he have him put on a helmet and go out and bang his head against the heads of other kids wearing helmets?

“Science tells us we have to stop,” he said.

Omalu, who is from Nigeria, became a U.S. citizen in 2015. Omalu said his greatest accomplishment is being vindicated after many people dismissed his first descriptions of CTE.

fgray@jg.net