This is an amazingly important book and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to review it.
Jeanne Marie Laskas first met the young forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2009, while reporting a story for GQ that would go on to inspire the movie Concussion. Omalu told her about a day in September 2002, when, in a dingy morgue in downtown Pittsburgh, he picked up a scalpel and made a discovery that would rattle America in ways he’d never intended. Omalu was new to America, chasing the dream, a deeply spiritual man escaping the wounds of civil war in Nigeria. The body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-old named Mike Webster, aka “Iron Mike,” a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest ever to play the game. After retiring in 1990, Webster had suffered a dizzyingly steep decline. Toward the end of his life, he was living out of his van, tasering himself to relieve his chronic pain, and fixing his rotting teeth with Super Glue. How did this happen?, Omalu asked himself. How did a young man like Mike Webster end up like this? The search for answers would change Omalu’s life forever and put him in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful corporations in America: the National Football League. What Omalu discovered in Webster’s brain—proof that Iron Mike’s mental deterioration was no accident but a disease caused by blows to the head that could affect everyone playing the game—was the one truth the NFL wanted to ignore.
Length: 288 Pages
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: November 24, 2015
About the Author
Jeanne Marie Laskas is the author of six books, including Hidden America and The Exact Same Moon. Her writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. Laskas serves as director of The Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches creative writing, and she lives on a horse farm in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
Disclaimer: My husband hates football with a passion. I mean, he really hates it and wishes it didn’t exist. I am more neutral and don’t really care one way or the other. So am I biased when I say how important this book is? Maybe.
Concussion is a riveting journey of one outsider who decided who couldn’t stay on the sidelines. Dr. Bennett Omalu repeatedly says that he belongs on the outskirts, and it is true he has stayed out of much of the limelight that surrounds the controversy with the NFL. But he most certainly has not stayed on the sidelines. He has made a difference, and continues to make a difference.
This book has the feeling of a medical drama at times, a History Channel biography at others, with a hint of human rights activism sprinkled throughout. It addresses both the political unrest of Dr. Omalu’s home country, Nigeria, and the racial discrimination he encounters in the United States, as well as just how far powerful organizations will go to protect themselves and their money (though the NFL was technically a non-profit organization until this year.
Jeanne Marie Laskas has an amazing way of weaving Dr. Omalu’s own words into her narrative and the effect is remarkable. The scenes and situations leap from the pages and you are there, in the morgue, in the courtroom, in front of congress, and even looking into his fridge where Mike Webster’s brain is sitting next to the milk.
My only complaint lies with how many pages are dedicated to Dr. Omalu’s background. Of course his background in Nigeria is very important, it is how he became who he is. But I was half way through the book before he had ever cut open into his first brain at the morgue in Pittsburgh. I felt that much of his background could have been consolidated, and in the case of many minor details, cut out completely.
Overall, I give Concussion 4 out of 5 stars
Content: (0 being none and 5 being A LOT)
There is a lot of swearing, including the F-word, littered throughout the book
Sexual Content: 1
There are some vague references to sexual situations
Concussion is available digitally, in paperback, as well as audio CD. You can purchase it by clicking on the image below. Happy Reading!