A Hit in the End Zone, a Price for a Lifetime

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“Head Games” is alternately sobering and terrifying. It is painful to watch a grown man struggle to recite the months of the year, and to hear about the shockingly high number of suicides among N.F.L. veterans with C.T.E. It is also chilling to watch youngsters heading out onto the field or the ice accompanied by the usual exhortations from parents and coaches to play hard.

Mr. James, whose “Hoop Dreams” may be the best sports documentary ever made, is motivated by a fan’s devotion as well as a journalist’s skepticism. “Head Games” gains credibility and power from compassion for athletes and respect for their accomplishments. But it also tries to open the eyes of sports lovers to dangers that have too often been minimized and too seldom fully understood.

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