Prominent People You Should Know: Bennet Omalu

It's common knowledge that contact sports such as football can result in head injuries like concussions. However, until somewhat recently, the extent of these injuries wasn't known to the public. Bennet Omalu is the physician and forensic pathologist who discovered and published his findings on this matter. He was born in Nigeria during a civil war in 1968, which caused his family to flee for several years. He continued to grow up in Nigeria upon moving back and attended the University of Nigeria at the age of 16. There, he received a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. He completed clinical work there and eventually moved to Seattle, Washington in 1994. He later moved to New York, where he was a part of residency program for anatomical and clinical pathology. Afterwards, he trained as a forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh. It was here that he performed an autopsy on Mike Webster, a former Pittsburgh Steelers player whose mental state deteriorated years after he retired his career as a football player. Even though Webster's brain appeared normal during the autopsy, Omalu has a suspicion that there was more to the situation than met the eye. He invested his own money in order to perform expensive brain staining that revealed that there was an accumulation of tau proteins, which affect mood, emotions and functioning similarly to Alzheimer's. Omalu published his findings in 2005 and called for further research on the matter since he was under the impression that the NFL would be supportive of his discovery. However, the NFL called his paper "a failure" and said that it was completely false. After being called out by the NFL, he partnered with a neurosurgeon, Bailes, and an attorney, Fitzsimmons, in order to publish a second paper in 2006 about a football player named Terry Long, who suffered similarly to Webster. When he presented this info as well as that about three more football players at the 2007 league-wide concussion summit, he was once again dismissed. It wasn't until 2016 that  Omalu's discovery, known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) was accepted by the NFL and it was officially said that football could lead to the degenerative disorder.

 Hi, I'm Ashley M at DVHS!

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