“Every significant blow to a human being’s head leaves some measure of traumatic brain injury,” says Dr. Bennet Omalu, an internationally-recognized medical examiner, and subject of the recent feature film, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith.
Bob and I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Omalu present at the recent Florida Justice Association Workhorse Seminar. Dr. Omalu talked about how fate intervened in his life and placed him in a position of responsibility for conducting the autopsy of the late Pittsburgh Steeler Hall of Fame football player, Mike Webster.
Dr. Omalu said he really didn’t have any idea who Mike Webster was (he grew up in Nigeria, and never became an American football fan), but had recently seen several news stories about Mr. Webster and the problems that he had had in his life since retiring from football. Mr. Webster suffered from a rapidly declining memory, significant confusion, and other symptoms of traumatic brain injury. One story focused on how Mr. Webster would often have to sleep in his truck on the side of the road because he couldn’t remember how to get home. Dr. Omalu knew from his medical training that these are all signs of traumatic brain injury.
When Dr. Omalu autopsied Mr. Webster’s brain, he said he was shocked to find no visible injury or brain damage. So he preserved Mr. Webster’s brain and performed a microscopic examination. What Dr. Omalu found was significant damage to the microscopic structures of Mr. Webster’s brain. We now know this damage as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a diagnosis coined by Dr. Omalu.
If You Can’t See A Traumatic Brain Injury With Your Own Eyes, Is It Really There?
When Dr. Omalu described his initial examination of Mr. Webster’s brain and the fact that there was no obvious damage, it reminded me of the challenge we face with every client we have that has suffered a traumatic brain injury. Unless our client has suffered some kind of hemorrhage or brain bleed, a diagnostic test of our client would likely not reveal any of kind of injury. And unlike Dr. Omalu, our clients’ treating doctors obviously cannot autopsy our living clients in order to perform microscopic examinations of their brains.
Thus, many of our clients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries go months, or perhaps even years, before they are finally diagnosed with concussions or brain injuries. These diagnoses often come after months, or even years, of personally destructive or out-of-character behavior by our clients.
Dr. Omalu’s work has been critical to helping us understand brain injuries and the impact of repeated blows to the head. It was awesome to see and hear him in person.
If you have any questions about a traumatic brain injury arising out of an accident of any kind, please call Winter Park-based Florida brain injury attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-644-4444. Consultations are always free.