HEAD GAMES (Steve James). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (September 21) at the Royal. See times. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Chris Nowinski's got brains and brawn, and in this timely documentary he uses both to uncover the epidemic of sports concussions.
Nowinski played football at Harvard and went on to a career in professional wrestling before multiple concussions took him out of the game. After his diagnosis, he wrote the book Head Games, becoming the leading force in the movement to confront the fact that teams in both pro and amateur sports - including football, hockey and soccer - routinely send players back into action still reeling from head trauma.
Nowinski's now trying to convince athletes, firstly, to save themselves and, secondly, to donate their brains to science so the syndrome can be studied.
Along the way, director Steve James harnesses an array of medical experts to explain the depth of the problem (warning: brains are dissected) while, terrified that the games of hockey and football are at risk of becoming extinct, deniers do their dumb thing.
Just as interesting are those subjects who are hopelessly conflicted, like the mother who knows the risks but can't deny her son the game he loves, and Keith Primeau, who left hockey after many head injuries but still won't stop his own sons from playing.
Nothing about this movie adds new elements to the doc genre, but the data is devastating and Nowinski's an impressive character.
Producer Steve Devick and hockey's Kerry Goulet host a special opening night Q&A and book signing following the screening at the Royal.