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Truth Doesn’t Have a Side

Dr. Bennet Omalu discusses his groundbreaking research connecting the dangers of concussions and the world of sports. Read Transcript

ANNOUNCER: 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.

And the author of "Truth Doesn't Have a Side,"

Dr. Bennet Omalu joins us now.


Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you so much for having me.

Well, great book.

I have to say, many people would be

surprised at even the conditions of your birth.

I feel like you were born for this job.

You were born in Nigeria during a civil war.

How difficult was your childhood?

Well, my childhood--

I was born a refugee in a dilapidated refugee hospital.

The first two or three years of my life,

I suffered malnutrition.

I suffered the psychological traumas of war.

And growing up, I began to struggle with depression

and very low self-esteem.

I was just a very socially maladjusted child.

In doing that, I discovered that we all

are members of one another.

I began to discover my faith journey--


--that brought me to America.

A beautiful journey.

Now, your very name has special significance.

Tell us what it means.

Well, in fact, the day I was born,

my father was hit by one of the numerous bombs dropped

by the Nigerian Armed Forces.

So he-- the Catholic Charities actually

lifted his body to place it in the truck for the mass grave,

he had groaned.

He was brought to the same refugee hospital where I was.

A couple of weeks later, when he was relatively recovering,

I was placed--

I was handed over to him.

Placed me in his bosom, and he gave me the name Bennet.

Said for Bennet, he is a blessing unto my life,

from the French word "benoit," "to bless."

And then he give me a middle name, Ifeakandu,

an African name, which means, life

is the greatest gift of all.

INTERVIEWER: And that was the-- also the name of the doctor

who delivered you.

Yes, that delivered me, Dr. Ifeakandu.

And ironically, my last name, Omalu, actually

is a shortened form of my real last name,

which is Onyemalukwube.



INTERVIEWER: We appreciate Omalu.

What it really means is, he who knows

must come forth and speak.

INTERVIEWER: He who knows must come forth and speak.

So you see, my journey in America

is an epitome of my three names.


Now, in terms of he who knows must come forth and speak,

in 2003, you're viewing slides of a deceased NFL player's


What do you discover?

Well, I saw changes in his brain

that had not been described before in the brains

of athletes outside boxers.

I was still struggling with depression.

I thought I was being delusional,

so I took it to other doctors to confirm what I was seeing.

They confirmed what I saw.

They were much older, more experienced doctors.

So the consensus was to give it a name.

That, of course, Mike Webster was not a boxer.

But as a forensic pathologist, I knew that I couldn't just

give it any name I wanted, like dementia footballitica,

or Bennet Omalu's disease, or Mike Webster's disease.

I recognized this was an occupational hazard, which will

end up in the court of law.

And there is a double standard in the American legal system

that states that for scientific evidence

to be admitted as evidence in a court of law,

it needs to have precedence.

So I have to go back to the time of Hippocrates

to search what are the names in the literature I

could use for this disease.

And chronic traumatic encephalopathy

wasn't difficult for me, because chronic traumatic

encephalopathy sounds intellectually sophisticated.

And it had a good acronym.

And actually, chronic traumatic encephalopathy

doesn't really mean anything, to be honest with you.

Because there was this fear in me that, look,

I could be wrong.

So if I were proven wrong down the road,

I would have some wiggle room to get up,

oh, after all, it doesn't mean anything.


But we know from your experience with that football player,

you meet him on the autopsy table.

And you discover this, and you reveal this.

People-- I would think that this medical knowledge,

this advantage would be celebrated.

But that wasn't the case for your discovery.

Why do you think so?

Yes, it wasn't.

The NFL came after me.

Not just the NFL, fellow doctors,

including the doctors who are doing research on CTE today,

including the National Institute of Health.

Everybody came after me, marginalized me, ostracized me,

dismissed me.

In fact, I was labeled dangerous.

Some insinuated I was practicing African voodoo medicine.

But you know, I looked above that,

because I practice my faith in my science,

and my science in my faith.

I'm a Christian.

And I believe that like Ephesians tell us,

Ephesians chapter 4, that we are all one body, one spirit,

one hope in Christ, bound together by the bond of peace.

Whatever we do for the least of us, we do for all of us.

Because we are all members of one another.

And God is preeminent in all things.

God is truth.

God is love.

God is light.

As long as you profess the truth of God, come what may.

The truth with prevail as long as it is for the good of all.

So I believed what I saw was for the good of all,

including the good of football, especially our children.

Our children our gifts of the life of God, the spirit of God.

God gives us the gift of his spirit and life in a child.

And as Christians, we are bound to protect, nourish,

and cherish that gift of life, because it

is the greatest gift of all.

Having said that as a Christian, knowing what we know today

in 2017, there is no reason whatsoever any child

under the age of 18 in America should

continue to play the high-impact, high-contact

collision sports.

The big six are football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts,

rugby, boxing, and wrestling.


If your child plays even just one season of football,

with or without a helmet, there is a 100% risk exposure

to permanent brain damage.


100% risk exposure, because there

is no safe blow to the head.

And studies are being done in high school students who have

played just for one season.

And after one season, with or without a helmet,

with or without concussions, their brains

show evidence of brain damage.

And we see today that there are more than 3

million children, from 6 to 18, playing football alone.

Yes, children should play the non-contact, non-impact sports.

There are so many of them.

You could visit the International Olympic

Committee, like I explain in my book.

Non-contact sports like track and field, swimming,

volleyball, basketball, badminton,

table tennis, lawn tennis.

There was a study, if I may share

this, that came out of Sweden last year that shocked even me.

That looked at 1.1 million children over 41 years.

It shows that if you suffer at least one concussion in sports,

you are more likely to die before the age of 42

to a violent means.

You have a two to four times increased risk

of committing suicide.

You have two to four times increased risk

of suffering psychiatric illnesses, including

major depression.

You have much more increased risk

of engaging in violent behavior, criminal behavior,

becoming a drug addict, and abusing alcohol.


Real quick, before I let you go, I

had the privilege of interviewing Will Smith

and seeing the film "Concussion."

Has the "Concussion" film made a difference?

Yes, I call it the Will Smith effect.

What I couldn't do in 15 years, the movie did in one year.

There's no question about it, the "Concussion" movie

has been a very successful movie.

It has impacted society, and it has

permeated a fabric of society.

And I think it is because of the good spirit of Will Smith.

Will Smith is a shining light.

He is a wonderful human being.

And I think because of the love in his heart,

he has helped us to spread this good message.

Let us please protect our children.



I tell you, sitting here with you and having seen the film

and interviewed him, he truly captured you.

You had to have seen yourself on that screen.

Yes, my gesticulation.

He got it--

you voice, the laugh.

He even he says that your laugh is a testament to what it

means to be an American.

He says that in the book.

I enjoyed reading that.

Well, if you would like to know more

from Dr. Bennet Omalu, and the dangers of CTE,

and the scandalous cover up, his book is called

"Truth Doesn't Have a Side."

And you can find it wherever books are sold.

Dr. Omalu, thank you so much.

Thank you so much.

INTERVIEWER: It was a pleasure.


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