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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Now a major motion picture starring Will Smith, Concussion is the riveting, unlikely story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who made one of the most significant medical discoveries of the twenty-first century, a discovery that challenges the existence of America’s favorite sport and puts Omalu in the crosshairs of football’s most powerful corporation: the NFL.
Jeanne Marie Laskas first met the young forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2009, while reporting a story for GQ that would go on to inspire the movie Concussion. Omalu told her about a day in September 2002, when, in a dingy morgue in downtown Pittsburgh, he picked up a scalpel and made a discovery that would rattle America in ways he’d never intended. Omalu was new to America, chasing the dream, a deeply spiritual man escaping the wounds of civil war in Nigeria. The body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-old named Mike Webster, aka “Iron Mike,” a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest ever to play the game. After retiring in 1990, Webster had suffered a dizzyingly steep decline. Toward the end of his life, he was living out of his van, tasering himself to relieve his chronic pain, and fixing his rotting teeth with Super Glue. How did this happen?, Omalu asked himself. How did a young man like Mike Webster end up like this? The search for answers would change Omalu’s life forever and put him in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful corporations in America: the National Football League. What Omalu discovered in Webster’s brain—proof that Iron Mike’s mental deterioration was no accident but a disease caused by blows to the head that could affect everyone playing the game—was the one truth the NFL wanted to ignore.
Taut, gripping, and gorgeously told, Concussion is the stirring story of one unlikely man’s decision to stand up to a multibillion-dollar colossus, and to tell the world the truth.
Advance praise for Concussion
“A gripping medical mystery and a dazzling portrait of the young scientist no one wanted to listen to . . . a fabulous, essential read.”—Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“The story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s battle against the NFL is classic David and Goliath stuff, and Jeanne Marie Laskas—one of my favorite writers on earth—makes it as exciting as any great courtroom or gridiron drama. A riveting, powerful human tale—and a master class on how to tell a story.”—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
“Bennet Omalu forced football to reckon with head trauma. The NFL doesn’t want you to hear his story, but Jeanne Marie Laskas makes it unforgettable. This book is gripping, eye-opening, and full of heart.”—Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones
much, if he was sometimes mean to Bennet’s mom, well, everyone forgave him. What he’d been through. All he’d been through! What he’d made of himself. What he’d done for everyone! He instilled God in his children, a backbone of Catholicism from which none of them would ever stray, and he instilled in them the value of education that was somehow light-years beyond most other kids in the village. The boys, the girls, everyone would get the best education money could buy and go as far as they wanted,
known as Igbo Landing. Under the direction of the Igbo chief, the men marched in unison into the creek singing “Orimili Omambala bu anyi bia, Orimili Omambala ka anyi ga eji na,” the Water Spirit brought us here, the Water Spirit will take us home, accepting the protection of God over slavery. They walked into the water in a collective suicide. — When Bennet was walking home that Easter Sunday in New York, the woman who winked at him while she gave him communion was there in a taxi. She called
day, he was thinking Thank you for trying to help Nigeria, most Holy Father, and Good luck in heaven, and Pope, please tell God I’m sorry for my sins, and Thank you, Pope, and A special thank-you to Jesus, he was praying and his phone was ringing and he didn’t want to answer it because he was praying along with more than four million mourners, and Prema next to him, and the bishop at the altar on the TV saying “When you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted.” But the
It was beautiful. All of it. And Bennet marveled at it, the whole time in his mind talking to Mike Webster. Here you go, Mike, look what we did. It was a fabulous feeling of accomplishment. And then the phone rang. Now he was sitting at his kitchen table with his head cocked to one side, balancing the phone against his shoulder; he was listening to some guy tell him that there was a problem. A big problem. “Retracted?” Bennet said. “What do you mean they want it retracted?” “I’m sorry this is
And he was like no. And then he said ‘I love you’ and hung up. “How these owners sleep at night, I have no idea. I just feel like the NFL is run by murderers, liars, and thieves. They can sugarcoat it, and do all the charity they want. And that kills me because I think: Why aren’t you doing something for these men? Forget breast cancer awareness. Forget colon cancer awareness. Forget, I don’t know, whatever you’re doing. Concentrate on these people that you’ve wronged. You could build a whole