Local athletes, doctors anxious to see Concussion movie - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Local athletes, doctors anxious to see Concussion movie

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Concussions continue to be a reason for lawsuits filed against the NFL and NCAA.

The reason is because former players claim they're suffering from various brain diseases as a result of repeated hits to the head.

It was also the inspiration for one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Concussion, starring Will Smith, will be released on Christmas Day.

“[It’s a] good story about this doctor and his battle to be heard against all odds,” said Dr. David Wang, MD, Quinnipiac team physician.

For parents and athletes past and present, they called it a must see.

Former University of Connecticut quarterback Casey Cochran spoke to Eyewitness News about his hopes for the movie.

“I was born with a football in my crib, basically,” he said.

Cochran said he grew up to love football because his dad was a well-known coach. He wanted to be part of the game cherished by so many.

He said his first concussion came at age 11, but he kept going.

“It changed my life after that,” he said.

Cochran said he suffered more of them in middle school. They came with headaches, sadness and anxiety.

He began to study concussions right around the time stories about the brain disease began to surface.

He said the findings scared him, but not enough to quit football. He had a stacked high school team and dreams of playing in college and the NFL.

However, after winning the starting quarterback job at UConn, he left the sport. He had suffered 12 concussions at that point.

“I knew that the game was going to end at some point and I wasn't too naive about it,” Cochran said.

While a lot remains unknown about concussions, Cochran said the movie Concussion focuses on the same research that frightened him as a teenager.

“The scale to which this movie is going to impact not only Americans but the world is unbelievable,” he said.

He’s hopeful that the film has a lasting impact on young athletes.

He said he doesn’t want them to quit, just to know what may happen.

“You’re going to think about what you're doing,” Cochran said. “That’s the biggest thing.”

Eyewitness News spoke with a sports medicine doctor who said that when people look at the risk for concussions among college athletes, wrestling actually has the highest risk.

In the movie, Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist who performed the autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers great Mike Webster. Webster died in 2002 after his life unraveled from depression and dementia. Omalu discovered a brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Through his work, he drew links between CTE and football and took on the NFL.

Wang helped form a concussion task force in Connecticut.

He said he also can’t wait to see the movie. However, he’s concerned about a link that appears to have been made between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

“I believe it’s a leap of knowledge you're naming the movie Concussion and you’re talking about CTE,” Wang said. “We don't yet know how concussions relate to CTE.”

In 2013, a youth risk behavior survey found that 19.3 percent of high school students suffered blows to the head while playing sports. Those blows caused unconsciousness, memory loss or vomiting.

The task force was formed on Jan. 1, 2015 to study youth concussions and make suggestions for new policies.

Two recent changes included parents of high school athletes being given a sheet on concussion signs and symptoms and schools gathering statistics on the prevalence of concussions.

This is the first year those stats have been gathered by school districts statewide. The data will be sent to the state Department of Education.

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