Meet Bennet Omalu - The Scientist Who Discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy In American Football
12 February 2018
Alma mater: University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria
Science Hero: Dr. Jonas Salk
Prof Omalu was born in Nnokwa, Idemili, Anambra State, Nigeria. He started primary school at the age of three, went to Federal Government College Enugu at the age of ten, and at fifteen, he began medical school at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. After graduation from medical school, he completed a clinical internship at the same university hospital where he trained and later worked in the city of Jos, Northern Nigeria, as an emergency room physician for three more years before moving to the United States.
Prof Bennet Omalu’s hard work and love for new knowledge led him through a series of academic quests from which he earned eight advanced degrees and board certifications including fellowships in forensic Pathology and Neuropathology, a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology, and a Master of Business Administration. After his training in forensic pathology, with a focus in Neuropathology, at the Allegheny County Coroner's Office in Pittsburgh, he started working as a forensic pathologist, where he made a discovery that shocked the American Football world and also changed his life.
While at the Allegheny County Coroner's Office in 2002, he became intrigued by the autopsy result he had obtained of Mike Webster, an American Football Player, which showed no sign of physical brain damage even though before dying, Mike at just 50, had shown many neurological deficits. His curiosity for science led him to conduct an independent and self-financed tissue analyses on Mike’s brain, leading him to discover the first evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American Football. This discovery sent a shock to the football world and received strong opposition from the National Football League (NFL). Prof Omalu resisted and continued with his research, leading to him to discover more evidence of CTE in other football players, resulting the NFL to finally acknowledged a link between American Football and CTE. Prof Omalu later identified CTE in other contact-sport athletes and military veterans. Prof Omalu's story was adapted into a movie called 'Concussion,' where he was portrayed by Will Smith. His life and work have been featured in award-winning books and documentary films across the world.
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