Source: Image from the movie (Concussion, 2015)
The movie Concussion(2015), directed by Peter Landesman, was based on a True Story and presented a forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who made the first discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy(CTE), a football-related brain trauma in a famous player, Mike Webster. CTE is a deteriorating disease of the brain caused by repetitive trauma to the head, which accumulates tau proteins in the brain, leading to mental instability.
Other athletes faced with the same diagnosis led to the doctor raising awareness of the CTE disease. However, Omalu’s results appeared to threaten the corporate interests of the National football League (NFL), as they covered up and undermined the developing scientific evidence linking the activity of Football to significant health concerns.
In the following blog Strategic Thinkers focused on the five categories of Hazards: Physical, Biological, Chemical, Ergonomic, and Psychological.
Physical Hazards are factors within the environment that threaten your physical safety. They are the most common and are present in most workplaces at one time or another. In the movie Concussion, many physical hazards were present.
- Two-day drills – According to Mike Webster in the movie, it was painful playing football and understandably so. One of the hazards that was spotted in the movie Concussion was the fact that the NFL players had to undergo two-day drills of consistent and intense training in the heat of summer. These intense training sessions, combined with the unrelenting heat of the sun has the potential to cause severe heatstroke and fatigue, which can result in dizziness, loss of consciousness or even death. Therefore, it is recommended that adequate rest periods be taken in between such training sessions to allow the players to recover and hydrate themselves so as to replenish their stamina, as well as regulate and maintain normal body temperature.
- Collisions – Perhaps one of the most notable, albeit extreme, quotes that came from the movie was when Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) stated “God did not intend for us to play football”, but is it really so far-fetched? A human being would get concussed at 60g (gravitational force) but a common head to head contact on a football field generates a g-force of 100. He goes on to say “No part of our anatomy protects us from such force”, thus as shown in figure 1 below, there exist many potential physical hazards when playing football. These direct collisions, as shown in the clip above, can cause severe brain damage, resulting in CTE and other injuries such as broken or fractured bones and ruptured internal organs. Therefore, given the brutal nature of the game where the body, most notably the head, is used as a weapon, we recommend that the personal protective equipment be redesigned to better absorb such force in order to mitigate the impacts, or implement a policy where no one player should play more than 2 games consecutively per month.
Source: Clip taken from movie (Concussion, 2015)
- Headset while performing autopsy – Another hazard that was identified in the movie was in the scene where Dr. Bennet Omalu was performing an autopsy with a headset on. This posed a potential hazard as he is operating with sharp blades and tools, and the cord from the headset can potentially entangle his arms, preventing free movement of his hands or even cause the sharp tools to be flung from his hands due to an unexpected restriction from said headset. We recommend that a wireless headset be utilized while in the operating room to prevent cases of entanglement.
- Speeding into oncoming traffic – Following that, we were presented with a scene where NFL player, Justin Strzelcyk was speeding into oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the highway. Multiple hazards were present in this scenario, starting with the issue of him driving on the wrong side of the highway where he could easily get into a car accident. Compounded on that was that fact that he was also speeding, greatly increasing the risk of a fatal accident, endangering himself and others. Unfortunately, this did result in a fatal accident, claiming both his life, and the life of the other motorist who was also on the road as shown in the clip below. We therefore recommend that persons should refrain from speeding and stay within reasonable range of the speed limit as well as adhere to all road laws & regulations while driving on the correct side of the road.
Source: Clip from Movie (Concussion 2015)
Biological Hazards include bacteria from organisms or samples of body tissues or fluids which can adversely affect human health through direct or indirect contact with susceptible persons. Common examples of biological hazards include stinging insects, pest infestations, harmful plants, HIV and medical wastes.
- Unsanitary Living conditions – A biological hazard observed in the movie Concussion was the unsanitary living conditions of Mike Webster. He became homeless, living in a truck with one of the windows replaced with a garbage bag and tape. Surrounded by trees and bushes, Mike Webster was potentially at risk of envenomation or bites from snakes, spiders or other insects.
Source: Image from Movie (Concussion 2015)
- Improper use of protective gear – Another biological hazard seen in the movie was in the scene where Bennet Omalu and his family were gardening in their backyard without using gloves and other protective gear. Soils contain bacteria and fungi with the potential to cause harm when it is entered in the body through cuts, scrapes or splinters. By not using proper protective gear, this can lead to infections such as tetanus or sepsis.
Source: Image from Movie (Concussion 2015)
A Chemical Hazard can be defined as a type of Occupational Hazard caused by exposure to Chemicals in the workplace. With respect to the movie, the Chemical Hazards identified were:
- Ammonia Inhalation – Early in the movie we saw Mike Webster inhaling ammonia to remain awake as he did not want to go to sleep. However when inhaled, ammonia will react negatively with the human body, as it is very corrosive and will damage the cells in the body once contact is made. Although he was trying to solve one problem he would end up exposing himself to Ammonia Poisoning, and by extension create multiple other problems such as Lung Damage, irritation in his nose and throat or even death.
- Ingesting of Antifreeze – Terry Long proved to be in a great deal of pain, so much so he committed suicide by drinking Antifreeze. Antifreeze can be dangerous even in the smallest amounts and may initially seem harmless but that just means the body is starting to break it down releasing substances that react negatively when in contact with your blood, lungs etc. By ingesting Antifreeze Terry was basically trying to put himself out of his misery. He no longer wanted to suffer and he saw it best to commit suicide, releasing himself from the pain he felt.
- Issuance of Medications – Another chemical hazard identified within the movie was the misuse of medication being identified by Dr. Julian Baines. “Whatever it takes to keep them in the game” is what he said, not that he supported it but it was basically his job. They would therefore inject needles into the players or issue medications through other means, and it included but may not have been limited to Vicodin, Toradol, Lidocaine, Percocet, Lexapro and Zoloft. Introducing the players bodies to chemicals that had no right to be in their bodies; It is especially hazardous and toxic because they were issuing medication to solve a non existent problem. As they would have stated before, they believed the players were suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s and so they would have been issuing medication to treat that diagnosis when that was not even the issue. The players therefore become at risk because their bodies might react negatively to the medication they were receiving as well as there is the possibility of them overdosing on the medication for the sake of keeping them in the game.
An Ergonomic Hazard is a physical factor within the environment that harms the musculoskeletal system. Ergonomic hazards include repetitive movement, manual handling, workplace design and poor body positioning.American football is a high energy contact sport where the most common sites of injury were the ankle, shoulder, knee, spine and hand. Injuries can occur during both practice and games played. Some common injuries are strains, sprains, fractures, dislocations and just as the movie is named (yes – you’ve guessed it!) Concussions. Concussions and cervical spinal injuries can be caused by helmet to helmet collision as well as impact against other players’ knees and against the ground. However, protective equipment such as helmets, shoulder pads, knee and thigh pads and gloves are worn to reduce the severity of injuries occurring.
In the movie Concussion, one of the major psychological hazards was the negative impact former NFL footballers faced from being a part of the football industry. Most of the former famous athletes in the movie suffered from stress which resulted in mental illness. This illness was concluded as a psychological hazard that was brought upon four athletes that later resulted in deaths. Psychology has to do with the human mind that may influence the behaviors and actions of a person. The psychological hazard caused Mike Webster to be stressed, as well as he suffered with severe headaches, had doubled vision and heard voices in his head. Mike Webster’s psychological symptoms caused him to die from CTE caused by multiple concussions he received due to the constant banging of his head in collisions while playing American Football during his twenty plus football career.
Another interesting scene in the movie was the death of Justin, who also was diagnosed with having CTE due to the concussions he received playing in the NFL. He agonized the same mental symptoms especially hearing voices in his head saying to his wife “They are telling me to kill you” while strangling her. To avoid such illness from playing in the NFL, it is recommended that players should be aware of the risk (death) in playing American football and take into consideration the effects of consistently banging of their heads from collision on the field.
- Comcare. “Ergonomic Hazards.” Comcare. February 04, 2014. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/ergonomic_hazards.
- “Department of Health.” Cancer – New York State Department of Health. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/emergency/chemical_terrorism/ammonia_general.htm.
- Poison Prevention Materials. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.poison.org/articles/2007-dec/antifreeze-bad-for-your-kids-and-pets.
- “PSYCHOLOGY | Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/psychology.
- “Understanding Chemical Hazards and Risks.” ChemicalSafetyFacts.org. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/chemistry-context/understanding-risk/.