School of Social and Political Science

Hard Knock Life: Concussion, dementia, and sporting subjectivities

26 September 2022
15:30 - 17:00


Violet Laidlaw Room, Chrystal Macmillan Building


The first decades of the twenty-first century have seen a ‘concussion crisis’ across sport. This is a crisis that has involved, first, a heightened concern about the acute health risks associated with brain injury and, second, discussion of ‘Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy’, or CTE, a form of neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive head injuries, most prominently those experienced as part of sporting activity. In the first portion of this presentation, I will elucidate some of the key aspects of contemporary concussion talk with the aim of better understanding the stakes and composition of this densely tangled crisis. From there, we will attempt to at least partially unpick this knot by pulling on one particular thread traced during my ethnographic fieldwork. However – and in a move I may well come to regret – the nature of this second half of the talk will be decided in conversation with attendees on the day. Between us we will decide if we would like to discuss at greater length either: (1) infrastructures of unreal injuries in professional wrestling; (2) the rendering of expertise in parliamentary hearings concerned with dementia risk in soccer; (3) a blow-by-blow-by-blow account of three concussions on an American football field; or (4) a consideration of woodpeckers as an animal model of, and biomimetic inspiration for, traumatic brain injury. Regardless of the particular direction travelled, I aim to show the importance of the concussion crisis in sport for our contemporary understandings of dementia, neuroscience, and personhood.


Speaker Bio: Greg Hollin is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow based in the Department of Sociological Studies at The University of Sheffield.

Key speakers

  • Greg Hollin