On December 21, 2015, MomsTeam Institute of Youth Sports Safety held a special advance screening of Sony Pictures's new movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith, at the Loews - Boston Common theatre.
Joining me at the screening and a post-screening reception at the Ritz-Carlton were concussion experts and advocates from around the nation, Jeanne Marie Laskas, author of the 2009 GQ article on which the movie is based and the critically-acclaimed book, Concussion (pictured to my right below), and a large contingent of former NFL players (including Joey LaRoque (l) and Caleb Hanie (r)).
The screening was held as part of a social media campaign called #ForThePlayers created by Sony Pictures to support the movie's release in which football fans are being encouraged to "Dance or Donate": either upload a video of their touchdown dance to YouTube or Instagram, or make a donation to make a tax-deductible donation to MomsTeam Institute, a leader in educating sports parents and other youth sports stakeholders about concussions and repetitive head trauma since launching its pioneering Concussion Safety Center in 2001, and challenge their friends to do the same.
Concussion is a dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Bennet Omalu, MD, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. The film, a Sony Pictures presentation, was written and directed by Peter Landesman, based on the GQ article "Game Brain" by Jeanne Marie Laskas, and produced by Ridley Scott, Giannina Scott, David Wolthoff, Larry Shuman and Elizabeth Cantillon, and executive produced by Michael Schaefer, David Crockett, Ben Waisbren, Bruce Berman and Greg Basser.
An incredible fifteen months
The Concussion screening caps off an incredible fifteen months for the Institute:
- In August 2014, we began working with a group of outstanding athletic trainers in six states around the country to begin pilot testing of our new SmartTeamsTM program, a set of comprehensive, sport- and issue-specific, and easy-to-understand youth sports health and safety "best practice" standards of care templates and checklists to assist youth sports programs, and the parents and athletes they serve, in making informed decisions about safety, and provide clarity on the steps that need to be taken to safeguard children involved in sport.
- In September 2014, the Institute held its inaugural sports safety summit, SmartTeams Play Safe: Protecting the Health and Safety of the Whole Child in Youth Sports, at Harvard Medical School. A stellar roster of national experts gave 15-minute "TED-talk"-style presentations on how to improve youth sports safety by adopting best practices. The presentations were videotaped, and turned into a series of SmartTeamsTM Talks. It was gratifying to be told by many of those in the audience that day that the summit was the best of its kind they had ever attended.
- In January 2015, the Institute was honored with the selection by UNICEF UK as a "pioneer organization" to implement in the United States the International Safeguards for Children in Sport, which were formally launched at the Beyond Sport summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2014. MomsTEAM is among a select group of 40 sport and development organizations from across the globe working with UNICEF UK to further develop, implement and test the safeguards by making them an integral component of the Institute's SmartTeamsTM program.
- In July 2015, the NCAA and Department of Defense (DOD) announced the selection of MomsTeam Institute as one of only six recipients of a Mind Matters Challenge grant for our proposal to create a multi-media concussion education intervention designed to create an environment in which student-athletes are not penalized, ostracized, or criticized for honestly reporting their own concussion symptoms as well as those of teammates, but are actually encouraged to do so. The Institute is now hard at work designing a prototype educational program to increase understanding of the critical importance of honest and early self-reporting by student-athletes of concussion symptoms in the diagnosis and management of concussions.
- In August 2015, the Institute, with the support of our major sponsors, Hudl and i1 Biometrics, and generous in-kind donations of equipment and services from a number of other companies, returned to Grand Prairie, Texas - which had been one of the six communities in which we ran pilot programs in 2014 - to work with 1,000 youth tackle and flag football and cheer participants, coaches, and parents on implementation of SmartTeamsTM/UNICEF best health and safety practices. From five days of filming, we are now releasing a group of new SmartTeamsTM videos to educate sports parents on a wide range of health and safety topics, from abuse prevention to concussions, from hydration to the benefits of strength and conditioning programs for child athletes.
- And right before Thanksgiving, we were selected by Sony Pictures as its designated charity for its #ForThePlayers social media campaign for Concussion.
As the mother of triplet sons, one of whom was forced by a history of concussions to stop playing football before his junior year of high school, educating the public about concussions and the cumulative effect of subconcussive head impacts is something about which I care passionately and to which I have been deeply committed for the past sixteen years.
Help MomsTEAM To Help Keep Kids Safe
But, as much as we celebrate these achievements, and as much as we were honored to have been selected by UNICEF, the NCAA and Department of Defense, and Sony Pictures, we know that there is so much more the Institute could be doing to make sports safer, and this is where you can help.
As a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Institute relies on private donations, corporate sponsors, and various grant funding agencies and foundations interested in sports safety education and awareness, to fund our operations.
As you consider making end-of-the year gifts to charity, we ask that you please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to MomsTEAM Institute. Your gift will not only make it possible for the Institute to continue to help keep millions of kids safe playing sports, but enable us to exponentially expand our reach to help safeguard millions more.
Know that a gift in any amount will be greatly appreciated, not just by all of us at MomsTeam Institute, but by all the sports-active children in this country, and around the world, and their parents, who we help.
Thank you in advance, and best wishes for a happy and safe New Year!