The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
The problem is head concussions. Few, perhaps no, players avoid them. How many concussions are too many? "One," says a neurologist in the film. Especially if it's your child. Contact sports will, however, continue to be played, and players will continue to be concussed, some more than once in a season or even once in a game. "No child under the age of 13 should be allowed to play collision sports," says an expert here.
The documentary by Steve James paints a devastating picture of the long-term consequences of head injuries among pro NFL players. They are nearly 20 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than the general population, for example. There is a chilling scene showing Ann McKee, professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University, slicing through the brains of dead NFL veterans and pointing to the dark places associated with the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). There is a painful moment when an NFL veteran finds himself unable to name the months of the year.
The doc centers on two figures. One is Christopher Nowinski, a former Harvard and professional lineman, who graduated to pro wrestling. Nowinski's book Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis is one of the sources for the film. The other is New York Times sports reporter Alan Schwarz, who has made head injuries his beat. (Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander was out front on this story with a series in 2010.)
For years, the NFL seemed to keep its distance from the head injury controversy, despite prodding from players' groups. Recently, it has grown more involved in research and prevention, but "playing through injury" is still part of its ethos. Players with concussions are advised to sit it out while their head clears; experts say a week of inactivity is recommended.