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Dr. Bennet Omalu on Why the NFL Isn’t Responsible for Brain Safety

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An interview with Bennet Omalu, M.D., M.B.A., MPH, CPE, DABP-AP, CP, FP, NP

Music by Expwy

A transcript of the video is below.

Let's not make this about the NFL. When we make it about the NFL or the NCAA or Pop Warner, we're moving the focus from the problem to something else that is not a problem. The NFL is not the problem. I have an MBA from a very good business school.

The NFL is a corporation. What do corporations do? Sell a product or a service to generate revenue and make as much profit as possible. The NFL is as legitimate as Google, Exon Mobile. The NFL is not in business to protect your child or to provide health education. The NFL is not in business to treat your brain damage.

They don't really care. That is not what they're in business for. Let's make this about each and every one of us. Each and every human being has the intellect, the judgment to decide on what is good for you or not good for you. Hippocrates was actually one of the first doctors to identify concussions. He called it commotio cerebri. So for many centuries, doctors have always known that every violent blow to your head causes brain damage, which can be permanent.

This is not something new. Omalu did not discover that. Am I making sense? So knowing what we know today, there is no justifiable reason why a child under the age of 18 should be playing the violent sports, the high impact, high contact sports, whereby blows to the head, intentional blows to the head are intrinsic to the player.

When I listen to the proponents of football talk, they'll tell you, oh, we will make football safer. They don't tell you make football safe. So my position has always been that of the American Academy of Pediatrics that published in 1957 in the Pennsylvania Medical Society Journal in 1957. 11 years before Bennet Omalu was born-- I'm not ashamed to give out my age, but I won't give you my birthday, OK-- the American Academy of Pediatrics took a position that no child under the age of 12 should play football, wrestling, or boxing.

Now, in fact, these sports do not have any place in the development of a child, and do not have any place in any youth sports program. So that was in 1957. If you play a game like football, just for one season, you've suffered permanent brain damage. A paper came out of Stanford University last year, showed that in just one game of football, the player receives about 60 violent blows to the head, just in one game. And some of those blows are equivalent to a car traveling at 13 miles an hour slamming into a brick wall.

I discovered something. And the first mistake I did not make was simply publishing it as a scientific concept. No, I did not do that. Rather, I focused on the humanity of my discovery, the research, the humanity, and immediately comoditized the science to create some utility to mankind. That was why I gave it a name. And that was why, if you read the first paper I published, I made some statements there, that look, an epidemic is there.

I focused it on the people suffering from CTE. I didn't make it about a scientific concept. I didn't make it about myself. So coming to doctors, it is insufficient to simply describe an entity or practice sceince without translating it into some type of human utility. But if you noticed, very recently, I have pretty much sacrificed my career to make pronouncements to almost become a champion of health.

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