'Concussion' film stirs NFL brain injury debate

Sun Dec 20, 2015 7:05am EST
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The film "Concussion," tracing a forensic pathologist's quest to expose the truth about brain injuries in the NFL, casts a spotlight on an issue that has roiled America's most popular sports league.

The movie also may give parents pause, according to the filmmakers and some former players, about allowing their sons to play the violent sport of football.

"I love football. It's graceful. We have a lot of beautiful football in this film, purposefully," said Peter Landesman, the director and writer of the movie, due in U.S. theaters on Dec. 25. "We're not trying to wag our finger and say, 'Don't do it.'"

Landesman added, "Sometimes the things that we love in life are the things that kill us. We just have to make difficult decisions about what we do with that."

Rick Walker, who played nine seasons in the National Football League including on the Washington Redskins team that won Super Bowl XVII in January 1983, said he hopes women, particularly mothers, see "Concussion" because they have the ability at the grassroots level to make the sport safer.

"Dads have already been aware of the situation, and most men will play no matter what," said Walker, now a sports commentator in Washington. "When you're young, moms are taking you to Pee Wee and Pop Warner (youth leagues)."

"Mothers can be such a big influence. If they combine their forces, they have the power to bring about change. They will protect their babies. But with dads, it's always a macho issue," Walker added.

The movie tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith, who fought the NFL's campaign to conceal his research on the brain damage suffered by football players who sustain blows to the head during games and practice.   Continued...

Actor Will Smith poses as he arrives for the New York premiere of the film "Concussion" in the Manhattan borough of New York City, December 16, 2015.   REUTERS/Mike Segar