The selling of CTE: How the 'Concussion' doctor has built a career on distorted science

Stars and Stripes | 1/22/2020 | + authorName +
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In 2017, Bennet Omalu traveled the globe to accept a series of honors and promote his autobiography, "Truth Doesn't Have A Side."

In a visit to an Irish medical school, he told students he was a "nobody" who "discovered a disease in America's most popular sport."

Appearance - Cable - TV - Show - Disease

In an appearance on a religious cable TV show, he said he named the disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, because "it sounded intellectually sophisticated, with a very good acronym."

And since his discovery, Omalu told "Sports Illustrated," researchers have uncovered evidence that shows adolescents who participate in football, hockey, wrestling and mixed martial arts are more likely to drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, struggle with mental illness, commit violent crimes and kill themselves.

Pathologist - Will - Smith - Film - Concussion

A Nigerian American pathologist portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 film, "Concussion," Omalu is partly responsible for the most important sports story of the 21st century. Since 2005, when Omalu first reported finding widespread brain damage in a former NFL player, concerns about CTE have inspired a global revolution in concussion safety and fueled an ongoing existential crisis for America's most popular sport. Omalu's discovery — initially ignored and then attacked by NFL-allied doctors — inspired an avalanche of scientific research that forced the league to acknowledge a link between football and brain disease.

Nearly 15 years later, Omalu has withdrawn from the CTE research community and remade himself as an evangelist, traveling the world selling his frightening version of what scientists know about CTE and contact sports. In paid speaking engagements, expert witness testimony and in several books he has authored, Omalu portrays CTE as an epidemic and himself as a crusader, fighting against not just the NFL but also the medical science community, which he claims is too corrupted to acknowledge clear-cut evidence that contact sports destroy lives.

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