In 2002 forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu linked, for the first time, repetitive head injuries in NFL players to a progressive degenerative brain disease.
He gave it a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually progressive dementia.
Dr. Omalu's attempts to raise awareness of CTE were initially rejected by the NFL, but the league has since made some concessions.
Omalu will be in Rochester Friday for two events, including a community conversation on concussion at the Hyatt Regency Rochester at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Earlier in the morning, he will be the keynote speaker at the annual Catholic Charities Community Services fundraiser, also at the Hyatt.
After first trying to discredit Omalu’s findings, the NFL has since made concessions to try to protect players from head injuries.
Adults can consent to the risks involved in any sport, Omalu says, but no child should play high impact sports.
"Knowing what we know today there is no justifiable reason whatsoever that a child under 18 should continue engage in collision sports that we know are harmful for child. Helmets do not prevent your child's brain from becoming damaged while playing football."
He says brain damage can occur even if there is no diagnosed concussion, and a helmet doesn't protect players.
"In one season your child's head must have been exposed to hundreds of impacts. Unfortunately, the human brain does not have any reasonable capacity to heal itself or cure itself of any injury."
Click on the LISTEN link above to hear an interview with Dr. Omalu.