By Briana Vannozzi
“Sometimes we have to hit the public right in the face with a message before there’s movement. In that way I think the movie is very helpful,” Rosemarie Scolaro Moser said.
Moser is the Director of New Jersey’s Sports Concussion Center. She’s just back from a trip to Boston where she got a sneak preview of the new film “Concussion”. Will Smith plays a neuropathologist, who during a long and grueling battle with the NFL, unveils the degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brains of deceased football players.
“I think what’s important is that we keep a balance here. This is a movie about football players who have received thousands and thousands of head blows, so we don’t want parents to become overly hysteric or concerned if their child has had a concussion or two that they’re going to end up with something like CTE,” Moser said.
CTE is the buildup of the tau protein in the brain and is caused by repetitive head blows. It acts like cement by blocking neurons from firing.
“I hope that good things will come from this,” she said. “I hope that it will spur people to be advocates to change the sports so they can become safer.”
In Boston, Doctor Moser joined other leading experts on concussion at a panel discussion. Also present was the author of the book on which the movie was based. Though there’s been a spotlight on the injury in recent years, but it’s the first time the issue has gone Hollywood. She says there could be wide implications.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if parents start withdrawing more from the high contact or collision sports. That will probably happen,” Moser said.
But she emphasizes the importance of sports in the health and development of children. She says the big take away from this is that parents need to realize youth sports are not an extension of the pros.
The NFL has reacted differently to the movie than it has to past media coverage. Some suggest it shows the realization that this problem isn’t going away without change. The league has instituted 39 rule changes to promote player health and safety, payed out big bucks to settle a lawsuit with families of concussed players and invested millions into brain injury research. And yet, some players have continued rough play with little discipline.
“We need to get the best minds here in the United States together to say, ‘OK, what do we need to do to change this sport,’ so that it becomes a safe youth sport,” she said.
When it comes to the science around head trauma there’s a bit of a juxtaposition. Some doctors are focusing their research solely on understanding the long-term effects of repetitive head injuries and the best treatment. Others are using their research to develop better technology and equipment for the sport and enabling a more accurate diagnosis. While their their end goals may be different, all are in agreement: the injuries are serious and the risks are real. This is an issue where no one can afford to punt.