Newsletter 640 – A thoughtful Football Story

Concussion 2If you follow American football you may be aware of a new book and motion picture each titled Concussion. They tell the true story of a Nigerian physician named Bennet Omalu who came to the United States, earned several additional degrees and became a renowned specialist in forensic neuropathology. One day Dr. Omalu “picked up a scalpel and made a discovery that would rattle America in ways he never intended…. The body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-old…[football player], one of the greatest ever to play the game.” Prior to his death the football player had developed serious mental deterioration. Omalu discovered that this was caused by a brain disease resulting from “relentless blows to the head that could affect everyone playing the game.” The Concussion book and movie give a fascinating account about how others responded to this discovery and how the National Football League (NFL), “a multibillion-dollar colossus” tried to silence the doctor and discredit his work.

Why should you or I care? Here are two observations:

  • Be cautious about discrediting research that we dislike. The NFL is a huge corporation that tried to silence Omalu and produce research to disprove his results. This research was suspect from the start because it was NFL funded. But this is not limited to a football league. American politicians do something similar when they discredit research that appears to undermine their political agendas. Don’t theologians do something similar? What about academicians, advertisers, or public speakers who select or create research to support their positions and condemn or ignore the rest? If you do research, do it well. If you site research, be fair and try to site competent sources.
  • Be alert to the ways in which ideas, intellectual property and discoveries can be hijacked by others intent of gaining acclaim and money. Omalu’s discovery was claimed by others who took his ideas and built profitable organizations without acknowledging his contributions. When your dreams and accomplishments have been taken form you and used by others, it is difficult to trust again. Omalu struggled with this and withdrew, never expecting that the true story would be told. The book describes him as a man of courage. He also appears to be a man of integrity. That involves doing what is right regardless of whether anybody is watching.

Are these comments biased? Have I been unfair? Hopefully not! Even so, there’s value in pondering the stories of others and insuring that we’re not guilty of similar unethical actions. Please comment.

13 Comments

  1. Similar situations exist in the realm of agriculture and nutrition, where, for example, the Monsanto company pays for research or scientific reports that contradict those of less interested parties.
    There seems to me little doubt that Monsanto seeks to create agricultural and food monopolies, through chemistry, law and litigation, all the while obfuscating warnings and research from other qualified scientists.
    Proverbs 30:8, “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,”

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    1. I know some of you who responded are not residents of the United States. Or you have chosen (probably wisely) to steer clear of American politics. But look at the contenders for US President. A number of them (maybe all) take stands that throw out well established scientific facts because these go against some political positions. It seems that Christians do this as well: throw out any research reports or data that might challenge our theologies. Probably we are all tempted to do this, at least sometimes.

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  2. Nutrition is right. For years the AMA and big Pharma have tried to push natural remedies for diseases, including cancer, under the rug. Even today that is happening in unjust ways. From the allopathic side, it’s better to have a chemical entering the body that ultimately weakens it, than a natural substance that will strengthen it, the naturopathic philosophy. Fortunately in the medical treatment area, allopathic medicine is starting to see the value of integrating some naturopathic medicine into treatment, or at least not being so negative about it. It’s about time, but that direction must pick up speed. My wife and I have seen this first hand as we’ve been both been treated for cancer allopathically and naturopathically.

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    1. David, thank you for your good comments. Many years ago a non-medical massage man in Singapore rubbed my feet as well as my back. At one point he stopped and said I had significant blockage in my heart. I had no symptoms so I asked some Christian friends about the diagnosis. One of my friends said, “Gary, you Westerners think you know all about medicine because you’ve been doing it for 200 years. We Chinese have 2000 years experience.” So I told my doctor when I got home. He laughed it of but agreed to a stress test. Guess what: the modern medicine confirmed what my “foot-rubber” (reflexologist) told me. I was admitted to the hospital almost immediately and had a quadruple bi-pass. I’ve had no problems since and have made a complete recovery. I wonder what might have happened if that man in Singapore had not discovered what he did. So I see value in both types of medicine. Each requires that we do not get too inclined to reject what even unorthodox specialists conclude. (But not get too caught up in the latest thing, either.

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  3. This post has brought some hope into my life to press on and do what God has laid on my heart. I have almost lost faith in humanity when those I looked up to stole my ideas and tried to silence me. I can identify with Omalu and why he withdrew. I will continue to pray that God will touch the prideful hearts of people so that they can give credit to whom credit is due. In like manner I will also give credit to those I learn from and intellectual properties that I quote. Thanks for writing!

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    1. This is a beautiful post. I wonder if there are times for all of us when we need to let go of injustices that others have promoted. The alternative is to dwell in bitterness and that just drags us down – but rarely impacts the injustice creator. Your attitude is beautiful. Those of us who are believers know that everything will be revealed in the end. We can let this drag us down or let this go. You have chosen the higher, more noble, but more difficult role. Well done! Keep on doing what is right.

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  4. If people take heart to what you write in this enlightening blog, they will be less quickly putting thoughts on the Net. For those who don´t have the research background there is still the Word of God that can support a viewpoint. Thanks Gary!

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  5. It’s disappointing for many of us who may be reading this blog that so many times the good does not seem to win out in this lifetime. But this should not surprise or alarm us unduly. It is God who knows the heart and Who is good. All mankind is fallen and none righteous, not even one, though there are those who strive for integrity and to please God. God’s call on our lives is to do right in spite of unfairness and injustice. Do not put your hope in humans or their inventions, but in God Who is righteous and eternal. And strive to be like Him in all you do.
    How wonderful that this doctor could finally have his story told!

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    1. Thanks so much Jenny. Sometimes I encourage students or coaching clients to list their core values. For me, I want integrity to top the list. That is “doing what you believe is right no matter who is watching or who never notices.” That can lead to disappointment, of course, even mistreatment or abuse, but in the end we can rest in the fact that we lived lives of integrity. I wonder how many people can say “I was misused, but I still have my integrity?” That despite the fact, as you mention, that we all slip-up at times. Integrity also means fixing what we might have done that was wrong. Your post is stimulating.

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  6. I really appreciate and agree with your observations, especially being willing to cite credible research even if it seems to go against your own. Also, it’s unfortunate that there are so many in this opportunistic who will steal another’s work for their own benefit, but I guess we have to do what God has called us to do and trust he will take care of us.

    By the way, the Concussion movie is well worth seeing! Will Smith should get an Oscar for his portrayal of Omalu.

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    1. Thanks Chuck. First, the movie. I noticed that Will Smith got a Globe nomination but, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio got the nod. This morning’s Oscar nominations do not list Concussion. I read an interesting interview last week with Will Smith who apparently was greatly impacted personally by his involvement with the Omalu story.

      As you may know, I have been in academia for most of my adult life. This is not true of everyone, of course, but I am distressed by the competition for academic acclaim, starting when people are in graduate school. It seems increasingly common for career builders to be excessively focused on building big resumes. Sometimes this involves deception and overlooking the genuine contribution of others. Sad.

      Reply

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