Every year my practice, Lakewood Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Dallas, TX, puts on a winter advanced educational sports medicine seminar geared towards educating physicians, PAs, NPs, athletic trainers, and other allied health professionals.
It is put on by Dave Burton, ATC, who has over 30 years of experience in the field and has a bigger imagination and vision than most do when it comes to orthopaedics and sports medicine.
Well, a few years ago, Dave came to me and said, “This year’s main topic for the seminar is going to be on concussions…It’s beginning to be the hot topic now and I think we should get out in front of it….” (Mind you, this was before all the talk began with NFL players suing for compensation or the U.S. Congress getting involved.)
He told me of a man who he had done research on that he thought would be a perfect person to talk on the subject. His name was Dr. Bennet Omalu. Dave assured me he was the expert on concussions. I said with a sense of non-belief, “OK…Sure, Dave.”
Little did I know at the time that Bennet was and is one of the true experts on concussions. He is an author and as a neuropathologist has dissected thousands of brains. His main focus is on the brains of deceased NFL players.
He is widely credited as the man who coined the term chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Oh, yeah, he is also the guy Will Smith plays in the recently released movie, Concussion.
Needless to say, Bennet is a very passionate man on the subject of concussions. When he spoke to our contingent of health providers on that day a few years ago, he came across as a very articulate, engaging, and profound speaker. All that on a subject without a lot of glam. He emphasized his thoughts and beliefs on CTE, a term and concept not fully recognized by many half a decade ago.
Dave and I got a chance to get to know him on a personal level when we took him for pizza at Campisi’s afterwards. We heard about his upbringing in Nigeria, his family, and his other professional interests. He had a very busy schedule as he was flying out to Washington, DC, that night where he was scheduled to speak in front of Congress in two days. I would learn months later that Bennet’s passion would reportedly lead to death threats from those who didn’t share his viewpoints.
Pioneers like Dr. Omalu have helped mold society. Regardless of whether you share his passion and opinions on the relationship with contact sports and CTE, it is a testament to him to bring this subject up for debate and discussion. I thank him for that.