Although internal Sony emails regarding changes to the upcoming film Concussion were recently characterized as cowering to the NFL, the truth is that they were concerned that the movie would be telling the truth, for credibility and liability reasons. One of the key characters in the film says that Concussion is indeed truthful.
“The movie is accurate,” Dr. Julian Bailes told Hoppy Kercheval of West Virginia MetroNews’ Talkline on Friday. “They say some things that I don’t recall saying by my character and some minor things but, basically, the facts and timeline are absolutely correct.”
Bailes, played in the film by Alec Baldwin, worked with Dr. Bennet Omalu to persuade the NFL to acknowledge the existence of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy and its link to repetitive brain injuries resulting from playing football. At the time, Bailes chaired the Department of Neurosurgery at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.
“I think it will reach a much broader audience and let people see for themselves what we went through, what the emerging science was and, in the end, realize that the science, thankfully, did prevail,” Bailes said regarding the film.
On the surface, the assessment from Bailes could make the NFL even more concerned about Concussion. But to the extent that the league worries that CTE fears will cause the supply of future NFL players to dwindle, Bailes has an encouraging assessment.
“This is like smoking so many packs of cigarettes. I think it is the exposure through the years and I think it’s primarily ones that have played many, many years,” Bailes said. “I think [CTE is] a very low risk [for college football players]. I think there have only been a small handful reported, found at autopsy to have these changes and, I think, the real risk is not in high school or college or youth.”
That nuance may get lost in the broader strokes of Concussion, which presumably doesn’t devote many frames to telling John and Jane Doe that little Jimmy Doe won’t get CTE from playing high-school football. But for a league that once didn’t want to hear what folks like Julian Bailes and Bennet Omalu had to say, this is one sound bite the NFL should embrace.