I’ve been following the blogging flap about “Head Games”, a documentary about concussions that’s been generating some controversy amongst those who write and are concerned about concussions in American sport. ‘Coming to a Theater Near You: The Football Concussion Crisis Documentaries’ is the latest from Irv Muchnick, and his blog, Concussion, Inc. has some great info about his line of inquiry.
When it comes to concussion and TBI, there are a huge number of people who have lots of “free” information to dispense — for a price. That price is the promotion of their techniques or apparatus or gear or some other widget or gadget or concoction that’s promised to aid in the “fight against the concussion epidemic”.
While I am a big fan of more information, and I am a huge fan of the book “Head Games” by Chris Nowinsky (I own the book and have recommended it often), I am also a big fan of not having conflicts of interest in the case of concussions/tbi. When someone comes up with a product or a service that can be billed to an institution like a school or a league, or it can be purchased for relatively little money by the general public… and there’s lots of money involved… all sorts of klieg light klaxon alarms go off in my head… and things get, well, interesting.
Especially when it comes to self-styled documentaries that are funded by people with vested interests in a certain field. I can think of some very popular public “health experts” who appear regularly on television to promote their own points of view — supposedly objectively. They make their own rules, and they hawk their own ideas as “revolutionary breakthroughs” all the while refusing to submit to peer review or have any other sort of quality control outside the “echo chamber” of their own practices.
I can also think of a number of “entrepreneurs” who have created “documentaries” that promote their particular brand of transformation or self-improvement. The feature length film “The Secret” comes to mind – it was basically an extended infomercial for a number of get-rich-quick or self-help gurus who appeared on screen long enough to pose the “attracting abundance” questions they promised to answer, stir up a lot of enthusiasm for their ideas, and then disappear, only to be easily found online later, when intrigued viewers googled them, credit card in hand for the $49.95 eBook or the $129.99 eCourse.
One of the “experts” in The Secret was James Arthur Ray, the self-help guru who was arrested and convicted of three counts of negligent homicide in connection with a “sweat lodge” he was leading a few years back. Another one of the “experts” was Joe Vitale, who has promised for years to teach his students how to write hypnotic copy (e.g., trick people into giving your their money), and who now appears on his website wearing some sort of beads and promising miracles.
Now, I’m not saying Chris Nowinsky and Alan Schwartz and company are cut from the same cloth as the folks behind “The Secret” — I am simply likening them in their methods, in that they are very much in a position to fund and control the message they are sending out — which is apparently also directly tied to the King-Devick sideline concussion test, which is being underwritten by Chicago billionaire music and technology entrepreneur Steve Devick. When someone names a “groundbreaking product” after themself, I have to wonder…
People involved in the “Head Games” film project have protested that they are not influenced at all by the connections, and the official word is that the underwriters have absolutely no creative control.
But buyer beware. There are lots of connections that bear closer scrutiny, regardless of the protestations of those involved. And hats off to Irv Muchnick for not taking those protestations at face value and digging deeper.
When it comes to concussion and traumatic brain injury, few are as vulnerable as those impacted. Few are as desperate to try just about anything to get better — or help their loved one get better. And few are as willing to lay down cold cash find a way to address and overcome the conditions that can arise from concussion/tbi. Having such an eager and available audience (er, market) is enough to make your head spin. Let’s hope that’s not the case with “Head Games”.