PCMS_Philadelphia_Medicine_Spring2017 - 13

p h i l a m e d s o c  .o rg

Concussive Sports - Big Money & Permanent Injury

helpful but basically, "football is a col- an obligation to protect our children and we should prohibit their
lision sport."
participation in high-impact, high-contact sports until an age when
Bennet I. Omalu, MD, MBA, their brains are developed and they can make their own informed
MPH, CPE, DABP-AP, CP, FP, NP, is decisions." Dr. Omalu points out the hypocrisy between social actions
a Nigerian-born Forensic Pathologist/ and legislation. "If you neglect or abuse a child or even put them at
Neuropathologist/Epidemiologist who repeated physical or mental risk, you can be jailed and your child can be
is presently the San Joaquin County removed from you and yet we routinely abide by law, buckle children in
Sheriff-Coroner/Chief Medical Exam- a safety seat, and drive them to a game where they can suffer permanent
iner. Dr. Omalu is a Clinical Professor neurological injury."
in the Department of Medical PatholDr. Omalu was awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the
ogy and Laboratory Medicine at the American Medical Association in 2016 for his courage and perseverance.
University of California, Davis.
The medical community has made inroads to the safety of concussive
While working at the Coroner's office in Pittsburgh, Dr. Omalu sports. There are many factors concerning participant protection, inwas the first to discover and publish findings of Chronic Traumatic cluding informed risk, youth development and physical culture, and
Encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL players when he autopsied the the economics of multibillion-dollar entertainment corporations.
brain of 50-year-old former All-Pro Center Mike Webster of the
As physicians, we reflect the pledge taken the very first day of our
Pittsburgh Steelers. He was featured in the Frontline documentary career: "First do no harm...."
"League of Denial," which is based on the book of the same name Dr. DellaVecchia is the immediate past president of the Philadelphia County
by prize-winning journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, Medical Society, and a member of the PCMS Editorial Board.
both of ESPN, and his story is portrayed by actor Will Smith in
the film Concussion.
Dr. Omalu has a strong commitment to his profession and to
excellence. His attitude toward concussive injury is centered on
patients and his belief in liberty. In an exclusive interview with
Philadelphia Medicine, Dr. Omalu, whose childhood overlapped
the Nigerian Civil War, said, "I have lived under a dictatorship
and I therefore appreciate liberty and freedom." He believes "as
physicians we have an obligation to inform and protect."
From his in-depth and extensive study of CTE, Dr. Omalu has
alerted society to the devastation that repetitive sub-concussive and
concussive injuries can have, not only on adults, but on children,
whose brains are still developing.
"Adults can make the decision to engage in such activities but
it must be an informed decision!" He feels the significant risk
for the participants of the high-impact, high-contact sports like
boxing, football, rugby, wrestling, ice hockey and mixed martial
arts need to be acknowledged and not denied, and that the players
should be monitored and informed. Dr. Omalu points out that
if the players know they have initial damage or progression, they
can then make an informed choice to continue the sport and
risk further permanent damage or limit their damage by leaving
the sport early.
For children and adolescents (less than 18 years of age), Bennet
Omalu is a strong adherent to Hippocratic principles. "We have
Spring 2017 : Philadelphia Medicine 13


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