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League physicians sought to discredit Bennet Omalu’s autopsy study showing widespread brain damage in former Steelers star Mike Webster

In 2002, a Pittsburgh neuropathologist named Bennet Omalu, a native of Nigeria, examined the body of 50-year-old former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. At the end of his life, Webster had suffered a steep mental decline, becoming violent, depressed and forgetful and pushed to increasingly desperate lengths to battle chronic pain. In Webster’s brain, Dr. Omalu, who holds multiple advanced degrees and certifications from top American medical schools, discovered what would mark a turning point in the evolution of thinking about the effects of head injuries in professional football. The following excerpt is from “Concussion” published this week by Random House, and is based on the author’s interviews and other research. Laskas’s reporting is the focus of a forthcoming movie by the same name.

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