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CONCUSSION by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Release date: 07th February, 2016
Publisher: Penguin

List Price: £7.99
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Life can be cruel. Ask Jeff Astle’s family. The West Bromwich Albion and England centre-forward died in 2002, aged 59 with the brain of an 89-year-old man.
He was the victim of his own relentless bravery in the air, years spent heading footballs – frequently of the sodden, mud-spattered, heavy leather variety.
Astle suffered the type of trauma normally associated with boxers. The coroner recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ American Football legend Mike Webster took some massive hits too and, like Astle, his job effectively killed him.
2002 also saw Dr Bennet Omalu, a young Nigerian forensic pathologist, perform the autopsy on 50-year-old Webster. Cause of death? Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE – the first hard evidence that his sport could cause permanent brain damage.
Omalu was convinced of his findings, as Jeanne Marie Laskas makes clear in CONCUSSION, but this slow-burning, real-life thriller – now a major Hollywood film starring Will Smith – is a shocking tale of betrayal and vengeance.
After publishing his findings, Omalu believed the National Football League would congratulate him.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The NFL bad guys set out to bury the evidence and the doctor for good measure, using their own medical experts in an effort to discredit him.
Rather than accept evidence which could help save their players’ lives, the NFL were paralysed by fear that by acknowledging CTE it would leave them wide open to litigation and claims for damages.
The reality behind CONCUSSION, a riveting story of one man’s fight against a multi-billion-dollar colossus, has belatedly had a positive impact.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell vows: "We've made the game safer with 39 rule changes, adapted our equipment and taken the unnecessary risks out of the game.”
But how much has the game Jeff Astle loved moved on when a former Chelsea manager can berate the club’s doctor for hastening to assist a player she believes might have a head injury?


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