Will Smith film revives debate on football injury
WILL Smith hopes his new film, Concussion, will jolt parents into realising their kids' health could be at serious risk when they sign them up to play American football.
The hard-hitting sports drama, which premiered on Tuesday, tells the story of Nigerian-born forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu, one of the first to diagnose degenerative brain disease in former players of the National Football League (NFL).
"For me, more than anything, I'm a football dad," the 47-year-old Smith said as he attended the screening of the movie, which opens on Christmas Day. He has been tipped for an Oscar for his role.
"I love football. For me, this is about informing parents and delivering the truth and people will decide what they want to do with that."
The much-anticipated film has revived an ongoing debate on brain injuries in the most popular and most watched sport in America. A recent study of dead NFL players found 96 per cent of those tested suffered from the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
"I did not know when I watched my son play football in high school for those four years, I did not know there was a potential long-term neurological issue," said Smith, a father of three.
"I've talked to professional football players and people who have been in the game a long time that don't know the information that is in this film."
Dr Omalu himself attended the premiere, along with family members of dead football players who had suffered from CTE. The pathologist, who received a standing ovation after the screening, said he hoped Hollywood's decision to take on his story would help raise awareness of the condition.
The degenerative disease, resulting from repeated blows to the head, can lead to nausea, memory loss and dementia.
"I thought Hollywood would be the most potent medium to portray the truth," said Dr Omalu, who knew nothing about football when he performed his first autopsy on a retired player in 2002 while working in Pittsburgh.