WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Amid evidence that head-impact sports may cause lasting brain damage to players even in secondary school and college, a retired physician is staging a free feature-film showing and discussion on Saturday at the Milne Public Library in town. Sports officials from both Williams College and Mount Greylock Regional High School say they can't attend. The reason -- prior engagements.
However, Williams provided a statement explain its research into the head-injury question.
"Concussion," a 2015 feature film which chronicles the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brain of the late Pittsburgh Steeler lineman Mike Webster -- and the National Football League's efforts to downplay its significance -- will be show at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the library free and open to the public, says Nicholas Wright, M.D., an epidemiologist and Williams College graduate.
Wright has been working for several years since his retirement from New Jersey to Williamstown to alert Williams trustees, sports administrators and school board members at Mount Greylock to the possibility that repeated sub-concussive blows to the head common in tackle football programs may have a compounding effect on the brains of youth. Wright wrote about his concerns in a Berkshire Eagle op-end last fall, has spoken about it to the Mount Greylock school board, and written to Williams trustees.
But so far, he has had little reaction -- appending to the bottom of another op-ed, """Williams College has denied two requests to provide a representative for interview on these issues." So he decided to show the film. Already, some students at Williams screened it on campus.
More than a month ago, Wright emailed and then spoke with Lindsey von Holtz, athletic coordinator at Mount Greylock, and Lisa Melendy, athletic director at Williams. But as of this writing, both had declined Wright's offer to be part of a discussion. Melendy said she has a family engagement. von Holtz is coaching a long-scheduled lacrosse game on Saturday as the film is showing. Also, Melendy said Williams sports-medicine staff would be covering games at that time.
In an email to Greylock News, von Holtz said: "I hope the event is a success and the turnout is large."
Williams' media-relations director Mary S. Dettloff, responded for the college on Thursday:
"The college has voluntarily participated and provided data for outside concussion studies. NESCAC has formed a Medical Aspects in Sport Committee that is gathering data, following research, and making recommendations for best practices. This work is on-going and under constant review at every level. (coach, sport medicine, athletic directors, and presidents, and medical directors) The college relies most heavily upon the NCAA Sport Science Institute and the NCAA Medical Safeguards Committee to provide us with cutting-edge research and guidance."
- Background on the history of the National Football League's handling of brain injury
- Berkshire Eagle story on Dr. Wright's planned testimony
- iBerkshires story on Dr. Wright's testimony and school-board reaction
- WNYT-Channel 13 (Albany, N.Y.,) report on Wright's testimony
- March 1, 2017 op-ed in Berkshire Eagle by Dr. Wright
- Earlier op/ed in Greylock Independent by Dr. Wright:
""Williams College has denied two requests to provide a representative for interview on these issues.""
Photo of Nick Wright, (to right) courtesy of WNYT-TV, Channel 13