Local Nonprofit Hopes “Concussion” will Bring an Important Message to the Big Screen
Under the shadow of upcoming blockbuster films, a local community-based nonprofit in Northern Virginia named Brain Injury Services is anticipating that the docudrama Concussion will stand out as it enlightens audiences to the importance of one of the United States’ most prevalent disabilities: Traumatic Brain Injury.
Concussion is a dramatic thriller based on the incredible true story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist, who made the first discovery of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in a professional football player and fought for the truth to be known. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with the NFL, one of the most powerful institutions in the world. Karen Brown, Executive Director at Brain Injury Services, is hoping Will Smith’s performance of a real life crusader pressing to expose the truth of Traumatic Brain Injury will bring much needed attention to a cause which is desperate for more awareness and action.
“The lack of awareness for acquired brain injury continues to be a public health concern” says Brown. She has been working on the front lines of raising the public awareness of brain injury for almost 20 years and believes more can be done.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is considered an invisible disability. It is a condition in which there has been an external force to the head that in some way injures the brain. TBI can vary in severity from a minor blow to the head, which causes dizziness or light-headedness, to a life changing brain injury due to major trauma. It is considered an invisible disability because, while many of the side-effects of head injury can manifest physical changes in a person’s body, the trauma to the affected area of the brain itself is hidden from sight. Combine the nature of this condition with the fact that acquired brain injury (TBI, stroke, and concussion combined) is the second most prevalent disability in the United States, and the byproduct is what researchers call a “silent epidemic.”
According to a Harris Poll taken in 2000, one in three Americans said that they were not familiar with the term “brain injury.” Moreover, when it comes to concussion, only 56% of Americans surveyed believe that when a person sustains a concussion, he or she has sustained a brain injury. These facts are stunning considering brain injury is a more prevalent disability than other common diseases like AIDS and breast cancer. Yet, over half of Americans polled thought brain injury happened less frequently. They were wrong.
“There was a client who we worked with at Brain Injury Services that stated that they never thought about brain injury until they experienced a brain injury themselves. Now it is all they think about” Brown explained. “This is the story of many of our clients.”
With the NFL and other sports juggernauts – like the English Premiere League – under the microscope for concussion protocol, Brown believes that public awareness is on the rise, but that it’s not enough yet. “We can prevent serious brain injuries” she said. “But we need people to be more aware; head injuries should be taken seriously. I hope the movie Concussion communicates that we need to be more cognizant of the needs for higher standards when we look at head injury.”
The culture in sports is beginning to change public perception, but more awareness is needed at all levels. Just this past month, the quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, Case Keenum, took a violent blow to the head as he was swung to the ground by his opponent. After the sack, Keenum clearly gripped his helmet and began to stumble as he tried to stand to his feet. His teammate had to help him stand. However the NFL protocol to protect players inexplicably failed as the medical officials were waved off of the field by the referees. The result was that Keenum finished the game, putting himself at risk of a compounding injury.
“Culture change takes time” adds Brown. “Brain Injury Services has been in business for over 26 years, serving as a leader across the Commonwealth and meeting the needs of survivors within our community. We are in the business of assisting survivors but we are also in the business of prevention. I would be a happy camper if awareness grew so much that it could put us out of business” says Brown. “Concussion is a good step in the right direction and I hope people go watch it.”
Brain Injury Services is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Springfield, Virginia. It was established in 1989 as the first community-based organization dedicated to serving adults and children with brain injury in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In the last twenty-six years, the organization has established itself as a leader in developing and providing innovative and specialized services to meet the needs of this population, sharing this expertise, not only in the local area, but nationally and internationally.
Austin McNair, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Brain Injury Services
8136 Old Keene Mill Road, Suite B-102
Springfield, VA 22152