Head Games

Steve James, USA, 2012, color, DCP, 92'
Synopsis

Christopher Nowinski is a Harvard graduate and former football player and wrestler. For 12 months, he was plagued by headaches, nausea and sleepwalking, and it ultimately meant an end to his athletic career. A friend suggested that he go to a medical specialist, and that's where Nowinski discovered he had probably suffered brain damage. Over the years, he had gotten perhaps a hundred concussions that were never diagnosed as such, and Nowinski is by no means an exception. Scientific research suggests that brain damage is widespread among American athletes, especially those playing ice hockey, football and soccer. The consequences can be dramatic. One 40-year-old former athlete tried to strangle his son of 14; a few weeks later, this same man committed suicide in front of his wife, with his children in the next room. More and more stories of this kind have been appearing in recent years. The problem is that it's only possible to diagnose the damage with any certainty posthumously - and there's no treatment for it, anyway. But it's difficult to convince American youth, or their parents and coaches, of the dangers - especially when sports are so important for both individual triumph and communities. Besides, being a crybaby just isn't cool.

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