Nowinski, Former Football Player, Wrestler Discusses Concussions

Chris Nowinski is a former Harvard football player.

Chris Nowinski, former Ivy League football player and professional wrestler, is coming to Northern Essex Community College next week to discuss concussion prevention and awareness in both professional and school sports.

A concussion survivor, Nowinski appears for an hour presentation Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Hartleb Technology Center on the Haverhill campus.

“The effort to solve the concussion crisis is no small task,” says Nowinski. “But a national, collective effort gets us closer each day.”

Nowinski, a former Harvard football player who enjoyed a brief stint as a professional wrestler with the moniker “Chris Harvard,” is a victim of post-concussion syndrome. He travels the globe educating others on the “concussion crisis” in sports. Concussions are not new and, according to Nowinski, each year some 3.8 million concussions occur and one in six concussions are undiagnosed. Concussions can result in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

He is the first in Northern Essex’s newly created STEM Speaker’s Series designed to introduce a wide range of STEM topics to the general public. It is funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education’s STEM Starter Academy, which is an initiative of the 15 Massachusetts community colleges to inform, engage, recruit, retain and graduate more students in science, technology, engineering and math, through STEM Pathway programs leading to job placement or transfer to university STEM programs.

Concussions are personal for Nowinski who played defensive tackle at Harvard. He graduated cum laude from Harvard in 2000, embarked on a career in biotech consulting, and enrolled in night classes at Killer Kowalski’s Institute of Professional Wrestling. He quickly signed with the WWE in 2002 and in 2003 suffered a severe concussion. Despite being symptomatic he continued to wrestle for five weeks.

A visit with renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu first exposed Nowinski to medical research indicating that concussions and brain trauma were misunderstood in the sports world. He realized that this lack of awareness among athletes, coaches, and even medical professionals not only cost him his career, but also threatened the health and well-being of athletes of all ages.

Today the 37-year-old Nowinski is the founding executive director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF), a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the sports concussion crisis through education, advocacy, and research. He also serves as the Outreach, Recruitment, Education and Public Policy Leader at the Boston University CTE Center, the first research center in the world dedicated to the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with brain trauma, which he co-founded, and is a Ph.D. candidate in Behavioral Neuroscience at Boston University School of Medicine. He is the author of the book Head Games, as well as 18 medical journal articles.

Nowinski serves as an unpaid advisor to the NFL Players Association Mackey-White Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Committee, the Ivy League Multi-Sport Concussion Review Committee, and Major League Lacrosse. He also serves on the Positive Coaching Alliance National Advisory Board.

Next Wednesday’s event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Carolyn Knoepfler, NECC’s assistant dean of math and science at (978) 556-3541 or [email protected]