Head Games

Julianna Maisano

On Tuesday, February 16th, Trinity College held a “Concussion Awareness Day”, a day with a purpose to inform students not only about concussions, but the severe consequences one can endure in the long run. The evening, the film “Head Games” was played for the Trinity community, and a discussion was held after, led by Arleigha Cook ’16, Casey Cochran, retired UConn football player, Casey Cochran, and Deb Shulansky, JD, CBIS, from the Brain Injury Alliance of CT, as the panel.

“Head Games”, directed and produced by Steve James, focuses on the concussion crisis across the United States. The plot of the film is based off of former WWE Wrestler and All-Ivy Football Player, Christopher Nowinski’s book entitled, Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis. After being diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, Nowinski was not only interested to learn more about his condition, he was eager to educate parents, coaches, and athletes about traumatic brain injuries such as concussions and their potential consequences. Nowinski conducted extensive research on the prevalence and documentation of concussions endured by athletes within the National Football League (NFL). As a concussion activist, Nowinski’s book and research enable investigations to be conducted and for the film to be produced.

The documentary, details the long-term consequence NFL players endure having suffered a concussion(s), the most prevalent being chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), an incurable disease in which normal brain functions are compromised by an accumulation of proteins (Head Games: The People, 2016). The disease is so detrimental, that patients often experience anxiety and depression. In certain circumstances, the psychological and physical pain the patients endure is so severe, that the patients commit suicide. Throughout the film, former NFL, NHL, and college football players and their families are interviewed. The documentary emphasized that the concussions should be taken seriously no matter how mild the symptoms may appear, and that with proper care, caution, and the right information, we can limit the amount of concussions and long-term consequences that victims endure, but can not completely eliminate them.

Immediately following the film, was a panel based discussion hosted by three individuals who have dealt with concussions first-hand. Alreigha Cook and Casey Cochran, former college athletes shared their reasons as to why they both decided to retire from their sports careers and the emotional toll that this not only took on them, but their families as well. While it was very difficult for Cook and Cochran to cease playing soccer and football, respectively, they were sure that their decisions were in the best interest of their health and well-being. Together Cook and Cochran, confirmed that things change a lot when one endures a concussion(s). Both experienced severe post-concussion symptoms such as anxiety and depression, that drastically impacted how the functioned, thought, and performed daily tasks. Cochran emphasized that players are hesitant to admit that they have received a concussion or are experiencing concussion like symptoms, as players are too invested in their game to give up and sit out. However, he notes that admitting to feeling dizzy, nauseous, or “not right” after a hard hit or bad fall, is one of the most important things an athlete can do. Deb Shulansky, a director of the Brain Injury Alliance of CT, noted times when her daughter experienced a concussion and expressed that treating concussions effectively involves adequate rest, patience, limited stimulating activities, and most importantly a strong support network that consists of family, friends, and doctors, all of which Cook and Cochran deemed were important and remain vital in their recovery process.



Head Games: The People. (2016). Retrieved from http://headgamesthefilm.com/about/the-people/

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