Dr. Bennett Omalu and actor Will Smith, who portrays him in Concussion, attend a special screening of the film in Westwood, Calif., Nov. 23, 2015.

As a parent of a son who started playing football at the age of 9, with teammates who were 12 and 13, and who received his first concussion before he even entered high school, I understand why a high school student turned down multiple football scholarships.

John Castello, a standout football and basketball player at Mars High School in Mars, Pa., turned down, not one, but 12 football scholarships after seeing Will Smith’s movie Concussion. The 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound senior was recruited by Delaware, James Madison, Holy Cross, New Hampshire, Lafayette and Bucknell but opted to play college basketball instead, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.


Although Castello could have received a free ride, he felt his health was more important and didn’t want to risk having to deal with chronic traumatic encephalopathy later on in life.

“The head injuries were a huge reason for my decision,” Castello said. “I’ve liked both football and basketball for some time. I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do. Then, that movie Concussion came out and some interviews came out. I watched one interview with Dr. [Bennett] Omalu where he was talking about [former Pittsburgh Steelers center] Mike Webster. After watching that, I said it’s not worth it. Yeah, it would be free college. But your whole life is in jeopardy. You’re putting your body in harm’s way every single week. It was definitely a tough choice, but I think I made the right choice.”

Because of his late decision not to play college football, he wasn’t being actively recruited for basketball. But he did receive a scholarship offer from Shippensburg University, an NCAA Division II school.

Now that CTE is being discussed more, it will be interesting to see how many high school students have second thoughts about playing the sport in college.

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