Written by | Ray Cornelius 

I had the distinct pleasure last night of attending a special private screening of the Will Smith‘s new dramatic thriller Concussion. The film is based on the life of Nigerian American forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first person to discover physical evidence linking football-related brain injury and dementia caused by repeated concussions. The condition is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and was found in the brain of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Center Mike Webster. Dr. Omalu’s scientific findings sent shockwaves throughout the NFL, who for years denied any connection between football concussions and cognitive impairment. The film chronicles Dr. Omalu’s “David and Goliath” battle against the NFL and his fight to be heard.

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje with Dr. Omalu and Ludacris

The Concussion screening took place at The CineBistro in Atlanta’s Brookhaven District and was presented as part of the #GameChangers Campaign, which celebrates everyday people who tackle great challenges and triumph in the face of adversity. The organization seeks to honor the underdogs who don’t just beat the odds but ultimately change the game.

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Dr. Omalu sharing a laugh with CBS 46’s Karyn Greer during his interview

Notables in attendance included the real Dr. Bennet Omalu along with Concussion actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Other special guests included Grammy-winning hip hop star and TV/film actor Ludacris, Disturbing the Peace (DTP) co-founder Shaka Zulu, the Enugu Men’s Club, former NFL players Robert Hicks, Dr. Joe Profit and more.

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Frank Ski with Dr. Omalu, Agbaje and former NFL Players

Following the film presentation was a powerful panel discussion hosted by media personality Frank Ski and featuring Dr. Omalu, Agbaje, Dr. Profit and another former player. Dr. Omalu shared with the audience that he refused to endorse the film until it was completed and he had a chance to view it.  He also claims that Concussion is not an “anti-football” film and hopes that it will raise more awareness around CTE and sports safety.  Dr. Omalu also revealed that Will Smith personally honored his late father (who died in 2014) by using a real photo of him during the movie.

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Dr. Omalu with Morehouse College’s Dr. Stephanie Dunn

Agabaje talked about the personal impact of playing Dave Duerson in the movie.  Duerson was an NFL great who tragically ended his life in 2011 after battling debilitating symptoms caused by football-related brain injuries or CTE.  Dr. Profit also talked about the film’s authenticity and was very candid about his own post football health challenges.  He confessed that many players were often traded to other teams when they began asking too many questions about concussions and long term health. Dr. Profit also warned parents about forcing their children to play in high contact sports like football and recommended that younger players engage in flag football to minimize concussive impacts. Unfortunately, there is no cure for CTE and once brain damage occurs, its permanent.

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Dr. Omalu, Agbaje and the Enugu Men’s Club

Concussion also stars Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, David Morse, Albert Brooks, Hill Harper and Richard T. Jones.  Check out more photos and a trailer below:

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

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RC with Dr. Omalu and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

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Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje on the red carpet with Dr. Omalu

CONCUSSION opens in theaters Friday, December 25!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com
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