By Christopher Nowinski

Robert Cantu, M.A., M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.C.S.M.
Chairman, Department of Surgery; Chief, Neurosurgery Service; Emerson Hospital, Concord, MA
concussion scrisis
Introduction: Jesse Ventura, former NFL commentator and former governor of Minnesota

In 2003, WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski took a kick to the head that knocked him out of professional wrestling and sent him on a journey that could change the way contact sports are played.

Nowinski, a former Harvard football player, suddenly found himself suffering from a constellation of debilitating symptoms that included cognitive problems, severe headaches, and depression. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with post-concussion syndrome (PCS), but they couldn’t tell him why that specific kick to the head created this problem, nor if he would ever recover enough to return to his job. His personal quest to understand his condition led him to discover that he had suffered not one concussion, but many over the course of an amateur career in football and his professional career in wrestling, and it was the cumulative effect of these injuries that had ended his career. He also learned that the worst was not necessarily behind him, as he uncovered research linking multiple concussions with serious long-term neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, memory impairment, and depression.

Most disturbing, however, was not what the research said was happening to Chris, but to the young athletes who play contact sports. He discovered that concussionshappen with frightening regularity, but over 9 out of 10 go undiagnosed. The lack of awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of these injuries causes children to die every year on athletic fields from Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) and many others to acquire permanent brain damage; some immediate, and some that won’t reveal itself for decades. Worst of all, he found that while the most popular and violent of American sports, football, is literally overwhelmed by a concussion crisis, parents, coaches, and players on all levels remain without the information and means to protect themselves, and NFL officials actively seek to undermine and discredit the legitimate and valuable research that could make the difference between life and death for so many young athletes.

Head Games takes readers through Nowinski’s journey to diagnosis, then deeper into an understanding of this far-reaching national crisis. The book includes interviews with NFL Hall of Famer Harry Carson, Merril Hoge, Doug Flutie, Pete Cronan, Leigh Steinberg,Sylvia Mackey, dozens of college and youth football players, and top doctors in the field of sports concussion.