Requiem for a Running Back: CTE is a Family’s Nightmare

Mike Ditka in Requiem for a Running Back.

Requiem for a Running Back depicts the horrors that families and former NFL players go through as a result of concussions.

To say that this documentary is the NFL’s nightmare would be an understatement.  It’s a horror story come to life and what that hits even harder than the 2015 Bennet Omalu biopic, Concussion, starring Will Smith.  Any parent thinking of letting their children play football will think twice after watching either of these films because of the seriousness that is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative neurocognitive disorder.

Lewis Carpenter had played for the legendary Hall of Fame football coach, Vince Lombardi, on the Green Bay Packers.  It turns out that the brain bank at Boston University wanted to study his brain following his death.  This led to some shocking results for the family: he had CTE and didn’t even know it.  With the announcement, he became the 18th player to get a postmortem diagnosis.

This film is directed by Lewis’s daughter, Rebecca Carpenter, and it comes off as a very personal project for her.  Are there home videos?  Sure, there are.  However, this is more than just home videos of a random football player.  This is a daughter wanting to know how and why this happened.  It led to a three-year journey that took her across the country in search of answers.

What does CTE do?  It can lead to depression, obsession, being forgetful, and a uncontrollable temper.  Family members suffer because of this and it’s even worse when nobody knows what the repeated concussions and blows to the head do over an NFL career.

Those interviewed in Requiem for a Running Back include former teammates, rival players, scientists, historians, and other families who were affected by having a loved one diagnosed with CTE.  Among the doctors included are the aforementioned Dr. Bennet Omalu and Evanston-based neurologist Dr. Julian Baile.  Carpenter spoke to former players diagnosed with CTE and their families: Mike Pyle (Chicago Bears), Ray Easterling (Atlanta Falcons), John Hilton (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Greg Lens (Atlanta Falcons

Chris Borland is among those interviewed and he retired from the NFL before he even turned 30 years old!  If his retirement doesn’t essentially say that playing football is scary, something must be off.  His retirement should be seen as a warning for not only the NFL but any parent thinking of having their children play football.

Carpenter should not have gone through this battle alone.  While it’s great to see that people are speaking out, nobody should be shamed for doing so.  One of the CTE side effects is dementia and nobody wants to see their family members go through that.

On a personal note, CTE is one of the factors into why I made the decision to stop watching the NFL.  It took way too long for the NFL to take concussions seriously and even now, some teams are still bringing players back too soon.

Hydro Studios opened the touching and hard-hitting Requiem for a Running Back in New York and Chicago (Gene Siskel Film Center) on November 10, 2017.  After this week, there will be more theatrical runs and one-night screenings announced.



Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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