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Protecting Kids from the Dangers of Concussions

Dr. Bennet Omalu's groundbreaking research revealed the devastating effects of brain injuries in athletes. Now, he discusses how to keep children safe from high-impact sports. Read Transcript

Football players are out in high schools and colleges doing

pre-game drills and work with pads,

and we're in week one of the NFL season.

Later this month, the curtain will

rise on another season of college football,

while millions of people will be tuning

to see hard-hitting action on the gridiron.

One neurosurgeon says there's something else happening

on the field of play and the powers that

be have tried to cover it up.

NARRATOR: Playing sports is fun, builds character,

and teaches teamwork, but letting children

play contact sports can be more dangerous than parents realize.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE,

is a condition discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu

and is caused by head trauma.

People with CTE have serious and sometimes life-threatening

brain damage similar to Alzheimer's.

The disease is the subject of the movie "Concussion,"

where Dr. Omalu is played by Will Smith.

In the book "Truth Doesn't Have a Side,"

Dr. Omalu shares the true cost of playing contact sports

and how to keep your kids safe on the field.

Well, Dr. Bennet Omalu is here with us now,

and we welcome him to "The 700 Club."

Doctor, our brain is inside of a skull cavity.

What is it made of and how does it work?

You know?

Thank you so much, Pat.

The brain is made up of about 200 billion, with a B, cells,

and it's about 60% to 80% water.

So you know, you have cells floating in a sea of water.

In fact, when you open up the human skull,

if you're not careful, the brain will flow out literally

from it.

It has the consistency of about Jell-O.

It's very sensitive.

It has no reasonable capacity to heal itself

or to regenerate itself.

So you're born with a certain number of brain cells.

You can only lose your brain cells.

You cannot synthesize new brain cells.

Well, now you came up with a name

that was unknown in the medical field--

chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

And what is that?

Well, it was already existed in the medical literature,

but that's a descriptive terminology.

So I used it because of the Daubert principle of law,

meaning that you cannot use scientific evidence as evidence

in the court of law unless it's already existing or it has

a precedence.


So Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, CTE,

stands for a type of brain damage

you would suffer if you receive a single blow,

repeated blows of your head.

It's a disease that has no cure, and it's

a disease that robs you of your essence,

of the God-given life and intelligence you have.

It's a very serious disease, especially for children.

It's a disease that turns you into something else.

Well, so a kid is--

that brain is walking around in water,

and he's out playing football.

And he runs into his opposing player,

and their heads come together.

What happens to that brain in that little boy?

So when their heads come together,

there are multiple fractures, breakages of the fibers,

what we call axons of the fibers of the brain cells.

The vessels of the brain rupture.

There are actually microscopic bleeds.

Then the walls of the brain cells become disrupted,

and there is anarchy of the proteins in the brain.

So a concussion is not a mild type of disease.

It is a very serious type of disease.

All you need to suffer permanent brain damage

is just one concussion.


Just one?

Just one concussion.

PAT ROBERTSON: Not repeated?


In fact, there was a paper that came out of Sweden in 2016.

Well, it looked at 1.1 million children

and watched them for 41 years, and to become

part of that study you must have suffered

at least one concussion that brought you to the hospital.

Look at what they found, Pat.

PAT ROBERTSON: What did they find?

That if you suffer at least one concussion,

you have a risk of dying before the age of 42,

especially from violent means--

I was shocked myself--

that you have about two to four times increased risk

of committing suicide, about two to four times

increased risk of suffering from a major psychiatric illness,

including major depression.

You have a much increased risk of becoming a drug addict,

becoming addicted to opiates.

Just from one concussion?

Just one concussion.



Because remember, when you play football, for one documented

concussion, you have suffered at least hundreds of blows

to your head, these so-called sub-concussions.

So this is a major, major, major disease

that is robbing us of our God-given talents

in our children.

Now, you were the medical examiner

in Allegheny County in Pennsylvania,

and you got some brains--

one, a guy named Mike Webster, who is a pro football player.

And how do you slice them?

Are they real thin slices of the brain?


Before you can examine the brain,

you need to preserve it in a chemical we call formalin

for at last two weeks to make it farm.

So you now take it-- we actually call it bread loaf,

and you cut it like you would cut a slice of bread.

PAT ROBERTSON: A loaf of bread.


And then you were looking at this Mike

Webster, one of those things, and what did you find?

You weren't aware of this before.


By then, all I knew about was this so-called dementia

pugilistica, the dementia of boxers.

There was no dementia footballitica.

In fact, there was no CTE, really.

So I actually took the brain home,

because my office did not let me examine it.

And I saw changes microscopically in his brain.

I showed it to the other doctors.

It was a disease that it nearly resembled

what we saw in boxers.

So the light that Mike Webster gave

us was this type of disease does not only occur in boxers.

It occurs in every high-impact, high-contact sport.

That is why my position has been that no child under the age

of 18 in America today should play any of the high-impact,

high-contact sports--

football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, rugby, wrestling,

and boxing.

Children should play the non-contact sports,

like swimming, track and field, volleyball, basketball,

badminton, table tennis, lawn tennis.

The non-contact sports will still

give your child whatever football would give your child

and even more.

The non-contact sports will preserve

your child's intelligence.

PAT ROBERTSON: When you brought your findings

about the football, I mean, you're looking up

against the NFL, which is a gigantic, multi-billion dollar

enterprise, and they went after you tooth and nail.

What did they do to you?

Well, they came after me pretty much to exterminate me--

not just the NFL, even my fellow doctors.

But, Pat, as a Christian, Colossians 1, Ephesians 2,

and Ephesians 6 tell us that God is preeminent in all things.

All things were made in Him, through Him, for Him,

and by Him and that He is above every principality,

every power, every [INAUDIBLE] this present age.

So if I profess Jesus as my Lord and Savior, who shall I fear?

I should know no fear.

[INAUDIBLE] better than the truth.

Better than the NFL.

DR. BENNET OMALU: Oh, that is above the NFL.

Well, what did they do to you, though?

They accused me of being a criminal, of being a fraud,

that my paper should be retracted.

They insinuated that I was practicing African voodoo


Their doctors, many of the doctors,

including the doctors who are now working on CTE today,

marginalized me, ostracized me, called me all types of names,

and gave me all types of labels.

PAT ROBERTSON: They had a whole committee that brought forth

a paper showing that there was no damage to the head of people

who played football.


Their doctors came out with papers

stating that football was safe and that if you suffered

a concussion in a field of football

that you should be put back to play,

that concussions were not harmful,

that what Omalu was saying, Omalu was totally wrong.

But when we come down as Christians,

let's just come down to the basic, fundamental common


When you conceive a child, God invites you

in to partake in the creation of life

and gives you a gift of His spirit, a gift of life.

By the parable of the master and his servants and the talents,

we have to do all we can within our means to protect our gift.

My middle name is Ifeakandu.

Life is the greatest gift of all.

So when we have that gift of our child or our children in us,

why would we then intentionally send out a child

to a field to sustain brain damage?

I'm speechless.

You know, Tom Brady says he's had concussions.

Boomer Esiason just said-- he's starting

to-- he thinks he may have CTE, and he's a commentator.

How many pro football players would you

say have this condition?

100% of every professional football player, all of them,

must have had a certain type of brain

damage to a certain degree, with or without CTE.

That is this scientific fact.

Hippocrates, 400 years before Christ was born,

gave it the name commotio cerebri.

So we've had thousands of years of scientific evidence.

This is not about football.

This is not about sports.

Every human activity whereby the human head is exposed

to repeated blows has a 100% risk exposure to brain damage,

and that is why I tell parents who have the habit of smacking

their children on the head to manage them,

they need to stop that.


Or spouses who have the habit, for whatever reason,

of smacking their spouses or hitting their heads--

we need to stop all that.

There is no safe blow to the human head.

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, would you tell parents, then,

not to allow their children to play football?




I wouldn't let my son play, as a Christian and as a scientist.

Do unto others what you want to be done unto yourself.

If I wouldn't let my son play, it

would be un-Christian for me to tell another man or woman

to let his or her son or daughter play.

When your child plays, this game robs your child

of his or her intelligence.

PAT ROBERTSON: It's horrible.

You made a statement.

You thought O.J. Simpson had CTE, right?

Well, as a doctor, I can't comment

on the individual patient.

However, O.J. Simpson, as a member of the cohort,

as a retired football player who played for so many years,

I would guarantee you there's a 100% probability

that O.J. Simpson had suffered some degree of brain damage,

with or without CTE.

I've looked at over 12,000 brains, majority of them brains

with trauma.

I'm a forensic pathologist.

And I've reconfirmed and reaffirmed

this scientific fact.

Like my book says, truth doesn't have a side.

There is only one truth.

Truth doesn't have a perspective or prospective.

And that one truth is God.


Well, brother, I'm telling you, your book is powerful.

And, ladies and gentlemen, our time's run out,

but you've heard it.

And I tell you, you know that song "Mama, Don't

Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys"?

Well, mama, don't let your babies grow up

to be football players.

And I played football and I boxed heavy weights

when I was a kid growing up, and thank the Lord.

I'm 87.

I hope my brain's still working.

It is.

I was out there doing it.

Anyhow, it's called "Truth Doesn't Have a Side."

A wonderful doctor and a tremendous fighter, and I

thank God for him.

Dr. Omalu, thank you for being here.

Thank you, Pat.

God bless you, sir.

God bless you.

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