Head Games is a must-see film for parents of sons and daughters involved in sports like football, hockey, and soccer. This hard-hitting documentary explores the long-term impact of concussions on athletes who experience this type of brain injury while practicing and playing these popular games. And it’s not a pretty sight! Based on the book by Chris Nowinski and directed by Steve James, the movie issues a wake-up call for safety improvements in all sports where head injuries are common.
As the director of movies like Hoop Dreams and Prefontaine, James is no stranger to films about sports. It’s no wonder he took a special interest in Nowinski’s book, which reveals the author’s search for the truth about the consequences of sports-related head injuries. As a former football player and wrestler, Nowinski has personal experience with this problem – and his appearance in Head Games adds authenticity to this enlightening but disturbing documentary. Here is a guy who took on some powerful people during his quest to find out as much as possible about concussions among athletes, which meant even asking family members to donate the brains of their deceased loved ones for study. Results indicate that many suicides and bizarre behaviors of athletes may be caused by earlier concussions, which might not have been recognized. Some players haven’t considered being knocked down and seeing stars as a concussion. They just get back up and into the game right away.
Through the efforts of Nowinski and others, groups like the NFL and NHL are paying more attention to this problem now. But the documentary points out that many fans/players/parents seem to love the violence displayed in these sporting events. Some of the highlights here show athletes and family members talking about the importance of the sport in their lives. Financial issues compound the problem further for school systems, because the cost of instituting proper safety procedures for their teams can be prohibitive.
It’s a complicated issue, for sure. Still, Head Games emphasizes that everyone involved should be better trained in recognizing concussions in order to make sure any athlete who suffers one is taken care of right away -- instead of being encouraged to get back on the field before the extent of the damage can be determined and dealt with.
Kudos to Steve James and Chris Nowinski for their splendid work in connection with this informative – and surprisingly entertaining -- documentary.
(Released by Variance Films and rated “PG-13” for thematic elements involving sports violence and injuries.)
For more information about Head Games, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.