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Head Games: A Review

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A review of the documentary Head Games

Hannah Foslien

Head Games: A Review


Head Games, winner of the best documentary at the 2012 Boston Film Festival, features Chris Nowinski and Alan Schwartz. Alan Schwartz mainly discusses the awareness of the media to the issue of concussions, where Nowinski, a Harvard football player and WWE wrestler, discusses his concussion history. This includes the final concussion that drove him out of wrestling and led him to Dr. Cantu, who is the author of the first Return to Play Guidelines. This documentary also features concussion stories from Isaiah Kacyvenski, Gene Atkins, Keith Primeau, and Cindy Parlow Cone.

The second half of the documentary takes a look at hockey with Keith Primeau telling his story about his concussions and his life now with post concussion syndrome. He admits to not taking the second concussion seriously and to feeling relieved when told his career was over. Brendan Shanahan is interviewed in his role as Senior Vice President of Player Safety. The push now is to educate on why the players of being penalized instead of to simply penalize.

Head Games examines the brains of NFL players such as Mike Webster who died young and were found to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Webster’s CTE was found on a pathologist’s hunch when he wondered if the brain would show any of the same damage associated with the brains of boxers. The documentary also discusses the differences between a normal brain and a CTE brain.

For me, the most chilling parts of the documentary were the story of Owen Thomas and the stories featuring children. Owen Thomas was a 21 year old football player who committed suicide. He was found to have CTE with damage to the impulse control center of his brain. He never had a documented concussion. This brings up the issue of subconcussive blows and how damaging can they be? The story of 15 year old soccer player Mary Rounce who has had four concussions and now doesn’t know what the future holds for her with life outside of soccer should she suffer another concussion. It was also incredibly chilling to see the sons of Keith Primeau and Peter Laviolette casually discuss hits and concussions.

Head Games is available on Amazon Prime for 14.99 or 19.99 if you want the HD version. You can also get it from iTunes: 4.99 rental or 19.99 to buy. The movie’s website also sells the DVD for 13.99 or the Blu-Ray for 18.99. I would recommend this documentary for anyone interested in concussions.