Movie review: Head Games

By Columbus Alive
From the October 18, 2012 edition

If you watch “Head Games” on Friday, it may affect how you watch NFL football on Sunday.

It’s a challenging look at a problem affecting a wide range of pro sports from director Steve James, the man behind “Hoop Dreams” (the greatest sports doc of all time, I’d argue).

Here James turns an eye toward the pervasiveness of concussions in many contact sports, and the potential consequences many athletes may see years down the road.

We meet Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard University football player who spent a few post-grad years as a pro wrestler. Nowinski eventually went on to write a book on the toll of concussions on athletes over the years.

James uses an underdog “David and Goliath” pee-wee football game to frame his argument, with the implication being that the “powers that be” in professional sports have an interest in suppressing this issue.

The points raised are challenging — as we elevate our pro athletes to modern-day gladiator status, do we care that those bone-crunching hits may lead to a future of serious neurological problems?

The perspective may be a bit too fiercely one-sided, though. It’s a worthy debate, but this documentary is only a starting point