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Friday, January 1, 2016

Concussions, Football and Dr. Bennet Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu is the doctor who discovered physical evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in activities other than boxing related to concussions and dementia pugilistica (DP). DP is a type of CTE that is a neurodegenerative disease with characteristics of dementia.



Who is the concussion doctor?


Forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu conducted the autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, which led to his discovery of a new disease that he named chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Dr. Omalu grew up in Nigeria Africa; his only encounter with the NFL was through the sports segment on the news.  

Dr. Bennet Omalu is the doctor who discovered physical evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in activities other than boxing related to concussions and dementia pugilistica (DP).
Dr. Bennet Omalu
Dr. Bennet Omalu said, “While munching on my apple I put the slides in and looked. Whoa. I had to make sure the slides were Mike Webster's slides. I looked again. I looked again. I saw changes that should not be in a 50-year-old man's brains, and changes that should not be in a brain that looked normal. I saw abnormal proteins in his brain, so-called neurofibrillary tangles, and threads. However, I looked at several, you know, the topographic distribution. It was different from Alzheimer's disease. Again, that complicated my disposition, my state of mind. Therefore, I took the slides home, said, "This is something I need to spend time with."

The NFL doctors sent a letter to Dr. Omalu accusing him of fraud and his CTE paper should be retracted because CTE does not exist. However, Dr. Omalu stated Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk, Junior Seau and all the NFL players he examined pathologically, he has not seen one that did not have changes in their brain system with brain damage.

Eventually the NFL created a concussion protocol protecting players from CTE. The concussion protocol is a four-page document compiled by the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, with input from the NFL Players Association, NFL Physicians Society and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society.

Death of the Pittsburgh Steelers hall of fame center Mike Webster lead to the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Death of the Pittsburgh Steelers
hall of fame center Mike Webster
lead to the NFL’s concussion protocol.

The NFL’s concussion protocol five steps roughly are:


Rest and recovery

Players may stretch and work on their balance, but they don’t work out beyond that. In addition, they’re advised against spending time on computers, any electronic device and social media. They don’t take part in team meetings.

Light aerobic exercise

Under supervision of the team’s medical staff, the player can start cardiovascular exercise, such as riding a stationary bike and using a treadmill, and work on more dynamic stretching and balancing. The workload is increased gradually and halted entirely if concussion-related symptoms recur. Players can attend team meetings and study film.

Continued aerobic exercise, introduction of strength training

Building gradually on the work of step 2, the player can start weight training.

Football-specific work

The player adds non-contact football drills, such as throwing, catching and running to his repertoire of exercise. No contact allowed with other players, tackling dummies or sleds.

Full football activity, full clearance


The player resumes practicing with the team, with no limitations. Once the team physician clears him to complete, the player is examined by the independent neurological consultant, who also reviews any relevant neurological tests.

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