SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – The real doctor who inspired the film Concussion was in San Diego Friday.
Doctor Bennet Omalu spoke to a crowd of hundreds about his research and the battle to prevent traumatic head injuries in football players.
The point Dr. Omalu made to the more than 200 medical professionals when it comes to brain injuries was that it’s not just about the NFL, but all high impact sports that are dangerous, especially when they involve children.
In the 2015 film Concussion, Will Smith stars as Dr. Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who fought against efforts by the NFL to suppress his research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
In real life, Dr. Omalu is just as passionate in his quest to educate people about brain injuries and what can be done to stop them.
“This is not just about football. This is also about domestic violence, this is also about child abuse,” said Dr. Omalu.
Dr. Omalu served as keynote speaker at Scripps Health’s Annual Brain Injury Rehabilitation Conference.
During his talk he spoke about his childhood, his research and the backlash he suffered because of it.
“I do not position myself to be higher or better than any of you--or even smarter than any of you. I was ostracized. I was called all types of names,” he said.
Dr. Omalu was the first person to identify brain injuries in NFL players. His research showed it was a result of repeated blows to the head.
“There is nothing like a safe blow to the head. Just like there is nothing like a safe cigarette smoke," he said.
Dr. Omalu maintains he supports the NFL. What he does not support is kids playing high impact sports, including his six-year-old son.
He said a child’s brain should be put in harm’s way.
“I will do everything I can as his father to protect that,” he said.
As for the film, Dr. Omalu sees it two ways. For one, he said it has prevented him from living a simple life. Still, he calls it a game changer, which he said was well worth it.
"I wish I never met Mike Webster because all I wanted was a peaceful, quiet life, but there is power in knowing,” he said.
Dr. Omalu lives in the Sacramento area and works for the San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office.
The conference is now in its 11th year.
It’s the first time so much emphasis has been put on brain injuries as it relates to sports.