FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Will Smith’s new movie, “Concussion,’’ opens Christmas Day and focuses on a physician who informed the NFL about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
Dr. Erin Manning, an assistant attending neurologist with the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) who splits her time between HSS in New York and the HSS Outpatient Center at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, said results are inconclusive that concussions lead to CTE.
“There is a definitely a problem with head injuries,’’ Manning said. “But there is no conclusive evidence that concussions lead to CTE. There is a lot of suspicion, but there is certainly nothing proven scientifically. I’m not sure how well that point comes across.”
The movie features Smith, who portrays doctor Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who fought the NFL’s efforts to suppress research on the brain damage suffered by professional football players. The movie was inspired by his study about two former players, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, both of whom committed suicide after suffering from CTE. Duerson, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, died in 2011. Seau played 12 NFL seasons and died in 2012, 10 years after his final game.
Manning said it’s important that the movie sheds light on concussions. “But it’s not just professional athletes who suffer concussions,’’ she said. “Head injuries are significant and shouldn’t be ignored. It can occur anywhere, and most concussions occur in living their life. The thing people have to keep in mind is this is a movie, and it has been dramatized for effect.”
One of the frustrations for physicians treating concussions is that there is little they can do. “An injury to the brain requires healing time,’’ Manning said. “A lot of people need to sleep more. They have to avoid screens and computers, which can make things worse. Rest time for your brain is important.”
Concussions have gained more attention in the past decade, Manning said. She is hopeful the movie raises awareness about the severe impact of concussions, but does not glorify them.
As a physician, Manning said she’ll find it hard to watch the movie without a critical eye.
“I’ll probably see it at some point but unfortunately it comes pretty close to what I do,’’ said Manning, who has worked for the Hospital for Special Surgery since 2013. HSS opened its Outpatient Center at Chelsea Piers earlier this year. “I’m definitely one of those people that it’s not possible to just sit back and enjoy it. It’s the same thing with televisions shows. It’s hard to watch and not criticize.”
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