Book Review: Truth Doesn’t Have A Side

Truth Doesn’t Have A Side:  My Alarming Discovery About The Danger Of Contact Sports, by Dr. Bennet Omalu with Mark Tabb

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I feel it necessary to point out that I am a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was born in the same area where the author made his reputation as a crusader about the danger of contact sports (football as well as hockey, boxing, and MMA, for example) [1].  I also feel it necessary to point it out that I have not seen the film concussion, and the gentleman who wrote the book is the same man whose life was portrayed in that well-regarded film by Will Smith.  Based on the excellence of this book I feel that it would likely be a very worthwhile film to see and I hope to see (and review) it before too long.  I also feel it necessary to point out a melancholy truth about this book, and that is that even in reading a book about a subject seemingly completely unrelated to my own life I found much in here to relate rather ominously to my own personal life in that it demonstrated that survivors of child abuse with PTSD appear to be much more likely to suffer their own form of CTE that is like that of former soldiers and distinct, although related, to that of former football players, and that the physical consequences of CTE include massive headaches, struggles with mood disorders, and insomnia, all of which are quite familiar to me.  It may in fact be that PTSD is at least in some part a physiological brain disorder related to trauma rather than a psychosomatic disorder as it is often considered to be, and that has ominous and alarming personal consequences.

This book is constructed in rather conventional chronological fashion as a personal memoir and it is a compelling read.  Born in the midst of the horrors of the Biafran War, the author, a native Igbo from a family of ambitious strivers, resolves to overcome a difficult childhood and his own struggle with depression to make a mark in life in America, which he does through pluck and divine providence.  A strong commitment to education and hard work leads him to be in the right place at the right time in order to conduct an autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who he finds has some disturbing but previously unknown tau proteins that appear related to progressive brain deterioration through repeated brain trauma.  His findings trigger a massive conflict with the NFL and its partisans that causes immense difficulty for him but he thankfully has the support of a wife and some friends and associates who stick with him throughout the difficult times before his vindication thanks to receiving the Hollywood treatment.  A couple of appendices argue that O.J. Simpson likely has CTE and that the author is quite intent on arguing that no technological improvements can make full contact sports safe given the fragility of the brain.

Throughout the book the author is candid about his own struggles and personal difficulties as well as his growing faith in God and his practice of generosity as well as his devotion to giving respect and honor to the dead whom he examined in his work as a medical examiner with a specialty in neurological pathology.  There are a few obvious and interesting takeaways from this book, such as the author’s commitment to the truth despite its obvious inconvenience, his steadfast determination to defend his integrity in the face of immense opposition as well as to argue on the fact that children should not be allowed to play in full contact sports because of their dangers, as well as the way that the author was able to make a notable medical/scientific discovery largely because no one else was even looking for the long-term brain damage suffered by ex-football players until his pioneering research.  This is a book that offers some rather painful reflections on our cultural obsession with contact sports and the damage that can result even to children and young adults as a result.  Hopefully those painful reflections will lead some choices to defend the well-being of children and reduce the threat of trauma to a generation of youth.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christianity, History, Sports and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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