cover image Truth Doesn’t Have a Side

Truth Doesn’t Have a Side

Bennet Omalu, with Mark Tabb. Zondervan, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-310-35196-2

Omalu (Play Hard, Die Young), the forensic neuropathologist who linked football with brain trauma and brought the wrath of the NFL down on his own head (as depicted in the 2015 film Concussion), tells his story in this rousing medical memoir. Omalu came of age in Nigeria during the brutal Biafran war and here chronicles his severe clinical depression, deep Catholic faith, and convoluted immigration to the United States, where he studied medicine. While Omalu worked at the Pittsburgh medical examiner’s office, he was handed the autopsy case for Steelers legend Mike Webster. Omalu found Webster had an extremely damaged brain; he surmised that the webs of dead brain cells in Webster’s brain were the result of repeated cranial blows and were the source of Webster’s depression, dementia, mood swings, and violence. This was the first documented case of what would become known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease so prevalent among professional football players that it could change the way the game is played. Omalu is adamant that no child should play a full-contact sport (though more than one million do), just as no child should smoke a cigarette. Helmets only provide protection for the skull, he writes, not for the brain. “Nothing protects the human brain from the force of impact experienced in full-contact sports. God did not design us for such impact,” writes Omalu. Enlightening and brave, Omalu’s memoir rounds out the highly influential work he has already accomplished. (Aug.)