PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – On Christmas day. the controversial movie “Concussion” opens in theaters starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennett Omalu.
Dr. Omalu discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, in the brain of former Steeler Mike Webster while working in the Allegheny County Coroner’s office. It is a degenerative brain disease found in those who have suffered repeated head blows.
One of the doctors who worked with Dr. Omalu on CTE was Dr. Julian Bailes. He joined the “KDKA Morning News” to talk about the movie, CTE and if he thinks children should play football.
Dr. Bailes, portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin in the movie, was the Steelers’ team physician for 10 seasons.
“‘Concussion’ is a good movie. I think it has great interest of course for Steelers fans everywhere and for football fans and maybe medical buffs as well,” Dr. Bailes says.
Dr. Bailes says he was a friend of Mike Webster.
“I knew him at the end of his playing career, I knew him after his career [and] tried to help him and take care of him the best that we could, but at times he was becoming so disorganized and so deranged in his thinking that we didn’t know what we were dealing with,” he says.
Now that CTE has been discovered, Dr. Bailes hopes it is beginning to fade away in players’ brains.
“I hope that CTE is part of a bygone era. There have been so many reforms, we’ve taken the head contact out of football, I think about as much as we can. We may have a little more that we can do, but I think it’s safer than it’s ever been [to play football] in its current style of play,” he says.
Is football something Dr. Bailes would recommend parents allow their children to do? He says yes but, has a word of caution.
“I would tell them that they have to look at the style of play, the style of coaching, what is that league they’re going to play in [like]? Do they do things the right way? Do they eliminate head contact in practice?” he says.
He adds that that a child that is old enough to understand should be informed about concussions.
“Football is still America’s greatest, unique sport and I think it’s one that if people understand the risk, they’ll know that the benefits greatly outweigh any risk they have,” he says.
Dr. Bailes stresses that while CTE is a seriously problem, is it not at epidemic numbers. He says they have found CTE in 65 to 80 cases .
“CTE really, by in large, is a risk for those who played many, many, years and we don’t know other contributing factors,” he says.
Listen to the “KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.