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Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California

Rep. McNerney Recognizes Dr. Omalu’s Groundbreaking Work on Traumatic Brain Injury Ahead of Super Bowl

Feb 5, 2016
Press Release
Raises Awareness on the Need to Support Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Washington – Ahead of Super Bowl 50 this weekend, Congressman McNerney (CA-09) took to the U.S. House floor to recognize Dr. Bennet Omalu, a resident of Lodi, CA, who was the first medical professional to identify, diagnose, and name Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease that is found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma, including sub-concussive hits that do not show any immediate symptoms. CTE is prevalent in athletes who participate in high contact sports, like football, boxing, and wrestling. Rep. McNerney also stressed the importance of supporting research to find cures for CTE and traumatic brain injuries.

“Recognizing Dr. Bennet Omalu’s groundbreaking medical research is particularly relevant as we prepare to watch Super Bowl 50 because Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is prevalent in athletes who participate in high contact sports, like football. Since Dr. Omalu’s discovery, we now know CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that is found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma, including sub-concussive hits that do not show any immediate symptoms,” Rep. McNerney. “It is imperative, as a nation, that we support research on CTE and brain injuries to figure out how much high-impact sports are affecting the health of our children and athletes.”

Link to video of Rep. McNerney recognizing Dr. Omalu’s work on chronic, traumatic brain injury: https://bit.ly/1P70fm4

Full text of Rep. McNerney’s floor remarks as prepared:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the medical achievements and discoveries of an extraordinary man from my district, Dr. Bennet Omalu.

Dr. Omalu’s medical achievements, focusing primarily on brain injuries, have recently come to prominence spotlight with the movie, “Concussion,” which chronicles Dr. Omalu’s career and the controversy his discoveries have created with the National Football League.

Dr. Omalu’s medical research is also particularly relevant, as we prepare to watch Super Bowl 50 this weekend.

Dr. Omalu was born in Nnokwa, Nigeria and was the sixth of seven siblings. His mother was a seamstress and his father was a civil mining engineer and respected community leader who encouraged Omalu’s career in medicine. His long medical career began at the age of 16, when he started attending medical school at the University of Nigeria. Omalu earned a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery in 1990.

In 1994 Dr. Omalu moved to Seattle, Washington and completed an epidemiology fellowship at the University of Washington. In 1995, he moved to New York to complete residency training in anatomic and clinical pathology. After completing the residency, Dr. Omalu trained as a forensic pathologist at the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office in Pittsburgh.

It was here, after conducting an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, that Dr. Omalu made a groundbreaking discovery that would forever change our understanding of brain injuries.

Dr. Omalu was first to identify, diagnose, and name Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE for short, is a disease prevalent in athletes who participate in high contact sports, like football, boxing, and wrestling. 

Since Dr. Omalu’s discovery, we now know that CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that is found in people who have suffered repetitive brain trauma, including sub-concussive hits that do not show any immediate symptoms. Early symptoms of CTE are usually detectable 8 to 10 years after the original brain trauma, and include disorientation, dizziness, and headaches.

As the disease progresses, individuals with CTE can experience memory loss, social instability, erratic behavior, and poor judgment. The worst cases of CTE show symptoms of dementia, vertigo, impeded speech, tremors, deafness, slowing of muscular movements, and suicidal tendencies.

Dr. Omalu’s continued research on brain injuries and CTE has given us a greater understanding of the long term effects of repetitive brain trauma.

According to the CDC, approximately 3.8 million people suffer from concussions a year and about 208,000 people seek treatment in emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries.

Approximately two-thirds of those emergency room visits are children ages 5-18. The rate of reoccurrence with traumatic brain injuries is high-- an athlete who sustains a concussion is four to six times more likely to sustain a second concussion.

Dr. Omalu has advocated for more education among the athletes who play high contact sports, teaching them about the risks associated with repetitive brain trauma. He has committed himself to advancing the medical understanding of CTE, brain injuries, and their effects on the people who suffer from them.

Today, Dr. Omalu has eight advanced degrees and board certifications, including a Master of Public Health & Epidemiology and Master of Business Administration. Dr. Omalu resides in Lodi, California and serves as the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California and as a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

The Bennet Omalu Foundation, named after Dr. Omalu is committed to funding research, raising awareness, providing care, and finding cures for people suffering from CTE and traumatic brain injuries.

It is imperative, as a nation, that we support research on CTE and brain injuries and figure out how much high-impact sports are affecting the health of our children and athletes. I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring the research and achievements of Dr. Bennet Omalu and all he has done to further the understanding of the human brain.

Rep. McNerney is a member of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus and the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.

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Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.