New NFL Report Keeps Spotlight on ‘Concussion’

The Will Smith drama “Concussion” was already set to release amid a flurry of activity in the ongoing head trauma debate that hangs over the National Football League in the run-up to the 50th annual Super Bowl next year. A new report gathering attention today assures it will feel as timely as ever when it finally arrives, right in the middle of the football — and Oscar — season.

In March, 24-year-old San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland made headlines when he announced his retirement after just one season in the NFL. He cited concerns over the risk of developing longterm brain damage, despite being on the verge of making millions and becoming a star.

One month later, a federal judge gave final approval for a class-action lawsuit settlement between the league and more than 5,000 former players. The lawsuit accused the NFL of hiding the dangers of concussions.

All of this came on the heels of a number of high-profile stories, from the 2012 Jovan Belcher murder/suicide (the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker shot and killed his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself), to former San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau taking his own life the very same year. Seau’s death recalled the suicide of fellow former player Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest and left a note requesting that his brain be studied for signs of trauma.

Pathology reports on all three men, and countless others, showed they likely had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It’s a progressive degenerative disease of the brain with symptoms including depression and aggression.

Now comes a Frontline report that underscores the entire issue. A total of 87 out of 91 former players have tested positive for the disease, according to researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University. That’s 96 percent.

The NFL appears eager to maintain a dialogue on this. After writing about the new trailer for “Concussion” in August, Variety was contacted by the league’s PR department with a link to the NFL’s fourth annual Health and Safety Report. Released on Aug. 5, the report is “a robust resource on the steps the NFL continues to take to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, expanded medical resources, investing in protective equipment, a commitment to the wellness of retired players, and a focus on overall youth sports safety,” according to spokeswoman Joanna Hunter.

The report finds that, since 2012, concussions in regular season NFL games are down 35 percent. It cites “nearly 40 rules changes in the past decade to promote player safety,” and includes a message from pathologist Dr. John York noting a “deep and growing culture of safety within professional football.”

Last month, The New York Timessourcing emails from the Sony hack — wrote that the studio altered the film to assuage the league. Sony and director Peter Landesman felt so compelled to respond that the director spoke at length to our sister publication Deadline, among others.

All the while, no one at the league has seen the film and Sony has only screened it for sports press.

Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of Health and Safety Policy, has said he would embrace a joint effort with Sony to raise awareness of the issue. No word from the studio on whether that’s a possibility, but the debate will no doubt continue to rage with the football season well underway and the film’s release mere months away. And when “Concussion” does arrive, it will be interesting to see whether it connects with awards voters for dramatically raising an issue that continues to swirl in TV and newspaper headlines.

More Film

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summerside Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content