Available on VOD and in select theatres beginning today, Friday, September 21: HEAD GAMES
Steve James’ investigation into sports-related head injuries premiered as the opening night film of the Boston Film Festival last night. It opens in select cities today and expands through November.
Based on Christopher Nowinski’s book of the same name, James explores the mounting evidence that links debilitating brain injuries to concussions suffered during game play in a wide variety of sports. Nowinski, who might be familiar to some viewers as a former WWE pro wrestler – or would-be wrestler reality TV star before that – serves as a key subject in the film. A former Harvard football player, he found his pro wrestling career cut short by physical problems he believes are linked to the countless head injuries he suffered through his sports careers, motivating the research that led to his book and current activist work around the subject. With professional sports associations parroting that studies are far from conclusive, the affable Nowinski tries to convince pro athletes to donate their brains for post-mortem scientific analysis; currently available specimens offer compelling visual evidence of damage, even if they’re from a limited sample size, but perhaps most telling is a brief and painful neurological exam with a former football player in which the man can’t quite recite the months of the year in order. Covering football, boxing, hockey, women’s soccer – to highlight the potentially worse effect of head injuries on women’s brains – and even youth football – sure to make parents think twice – Nowinski, and James’ film, signals the need for greater public awareness of the issue and steps to remedy the problem before it affects more athletes, young and old.