As contact sports become more and more popular, and the reality of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) becomes more glaring, there are emerging feelers that Bennet Omalu will sooner or later become the winner of a Nobel Prize for his increasingly acknowledged work.
Repeated studies by the Nigerian forensic pathologist and neuropathologist are strengthening the link between hard core contact sports and CTE. And the link has become so glaring and profound that Omalu’s findings might impel sports governing bodies to alter the rules of games.
In spite of the fact that Omalu has come under a series of attacks by stakeholders in the sports industry in the USA, his work has become so compelling that the National Football League’s senior vice president for health and safety policy, Jeff Miller, was forced to admit, four years ago to congress that the NFL believed that there was a link between football and CTE, which led to the American Medical Association awarding Omalu with their highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, for his work on CTE.
The implications of Omalu’s research work go beyond football. It covers boxing, as well as activities in the military and beyond because he has also discovered CTE in the brains of military veterans, which motivated him to publish the first documented case nine years ago. Furthermore, he found evidence of CTE in a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and later died by suicide.
Being the lead author in a report published three years ago, he was able to confirm CTE in a living person. According to the report, a chemical tracer, FDDNP, binds to tau proteins, detectable by positron emission tomography, and associated with the distinctive topographical distribution characteristic of CTE.
Tested on at least a dozen former NFL players, for example, it was confirmed postmortem in former linebacker Fred McNeill.
When Omalu came under stiff attacks about his research by some media organisations, including the Washington Post, he replied firmly in his book with the words: Truth Doesn’t Have a Side. He had written earlier in a publication: Play Hard, Die Young. By those replies, Omalu was literally living his family name, Onyemalukwube, which translates to “he who knows, speaks.”
Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, was born September 30, 1968 in Anambra State, in Southeastern Nigeria. He is a Nigerian-American physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who was the first to discover and publish findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players while working at the Allegheny County coroner’s office in Pittsburgh. He later became the chief medical examiner for San Joaquin County, California, and is a professor at the University of California, Davis, Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
By all means, Omalu’s research is a charity to humanity. It will no doubt safeguard the health of many sports persons in the future.