[ cheers and applause ] this is "nightline." >> tonight -- >> i discovered this. >> the real-life concussion doctor. seeing brains of athletes who suffered repeated blows to the head he's on a mission for the truth inspiring the new movie "concussion." >> this is bigger than they are. plus it's an american girl doll frenzy. these dolls are national obsessions. hairstyling, complete wardrobes, and loads of fancy accessories. some going for nearly $5,000 on ebay. the force is strong in the "star wars" universe. and has been for three decades. the galactic franchise not slowing down yet. a worldwide phenomenon that has racked up gold statues and
fanfare. so can "star wars: the force awakens" soar past the galaxy far, far away? but first the "nightline 5." >> but grandma, mommy says we don't have to watch to get clean because we use charmin ultra soft. >> charmin ultra soft has comfort cushions you can see that are softer and more absorbent. use up to four times less. enjoy got with charmin. constipated? trust dulcolax tablets for gentle overnight relief. suppositories for relief in minutes. stool softeners for comfortable relief of hard stools. dulcolax. designed for dependable relief. >>
thank you for joining us. tonight you're about to meet the real life doctor who discovered that insidious disease found in the brains of athletes who suffered repeated blows to the head. and who paid a terrible price. now after those countless concussions, even deaths, will smith's latest movie "concussion," concerns are intensifying and people are questioning whether the beloved sport of football is simply too dangerous. >> reporter: vin is living the dream. twice. ♪ i'm standing strong >> reporter: today at age 34, an aspiring artist in nashville, married, father of four. his second shot at stardom. >> manning. ben utek. >> reporter: for five seasons he performed on one of the biggest stages in america, the nfl, 150 million fans according to the league. utek played in cincinnati, won a super bowl with the indianapolis colts. a bruising tight end, he dished out punishment and took it. at 28 it was over. a portion of his legacy not what
he dreamed. >> at 28, to start experiencing memory problems. and cognitive changes. was quite alarming. >> reporter: a story that rings painfully true for more and more nfl retirees every season. legends of the game. chicago bear great jim mcmahon. >> guys leave me a message and i'll erase the message thinking, i'll call them right back. then i forget who just called me. >> reporter: hall of famer frank gifford passed away from natural causes at the age of 84. his family had his brain studied and released this statement. "our suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma were confirmed when a team of pathologists recently diagnosed his condition as that of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. it's become a who's who of former nfl stashes. enough to line a wing of the hall of fame. who have complained about or are diagnosed with ailments connected to repeated blows to the head. so much so even hollywood took
notice. the new film "concussion" starring will smith as dr. ben anamalu, the real-life physician who diagnosed cte, a brain disease caused by brain trauma affecting a number of pro players. in a statement released today about the movie the nfl said in part, the nfl has made numerous changes to the game to enhance player health and safety at all levels of football. we are seeing measurable results including a 34% decrease in concussions in nfl games since the 2012 season." "nightline" first reported on cte in the early days of dr. amalu's findings. >> i slept in the car probably a year and a half out of the last five years. >> reporter: the pittsburgh steelers mike webster won four super bowls. famous, wealthy, revered. he died homeless, broke, and alone. >> mike webster died today. a heart attack took his life at the age of 50. >> reporter: believing that behavioral changes were caused by trauma to the brain, the
nigeriaen born coroner performed webster's extensive autopsy. >> the heart attack cannot explain his life after football. i had to provide an explanation for that. i was extremely disappointed when i opened up his skull and his brain looked normal. >> reporter: determined to find answers, he analyzed webster's brain and uncovered a new medical condition. >> we're looking at a region of the brain in a football player about 40 years old. and what you can see, it looks ugly. >> reporter: he named it chronic traumatic encephalopathy, cte. >> the most significant contributing factor to cte is exporch sue exposure to blunt force trauma of the head. what happens is over sometimes 40 years you would not begin to manifest in a progressive man similarly on course. symptoms at mild as constant
headaches. very sult changes in personality. very subtle but diminishing intelligence. the mood disorders. chronic alcoholism. drug abuse. >> are we talking general slaps to the head? >> violent slaps that would make your brain move forward and backward, sideways, in your skull. causing shearing injuries. >> reporter: amalu's published findings were dismissed, even demonized by fans and some in the nfl. >> what were some of the things people called you back then? >> insinuated that i was a fool doctor, that i was fraudulent, that i was synthesizing my data and my findings. some pretty much called me the "n" word. i actually lost my job. even national institute of health officials had been told in the meeting, one of the officials said, that african, i
don't trust him. >> reporter: someone who did trust him and bolstered dr. amalu's dribblety was neurosurgeon and former steelers team doctor julian bales. >> we've got several linemen who did not have career-ending concussions who later were found at an early age to have extensive brain damage. >> reporter: they collaborated for years. he's played in the movie by alec baldwin. >> the league has kept everyone in the dark. and you turn on the lights and gave their biggest bogeyman a name. >> what's happening now, what you think they're doing to you, that's nothing. >> reporter: though symptoms may be present for years cte can only be diagnosed after the player dies. >> nobody informed them that there was a risk they could be damaged in their prime. >> reporter: hall of fame junior sand, one of the league's most beloved players, played on the field and his image off of it, retired from football and in time withdrew from his family.
he commit suicide, shooting himself in the chest, which allowed doctors to study his brain. >> the mood swings and the depression, the insomnia was terrible. honestly, i have a whole other level of compassion for what he went through at the end. he hid it so well. it doesn't help ease our pain and our grief, but understanding that he suffered from cte certainly is a big piece to the puzzle to help us understand part of the why. >> reporter: in 2011, the class action lawsuit against the nfl over concussion-related injuries was filed. the case was settled in april 2015 without an admission of wrongdoing for over $1 billion to be paid out over the next 65 years to more than 20,000 nfl retirees. bloomberg business estimates the nfl's revenue was $9.5 billion per year. >> these guys have been suffering for a long time. both financially and mentally. and now it's going to be -- hopefully bring some relief to those families. >> reporter: from peewee players
to the pros, football is america's ga. beloved by millions. but as concerns deepen, parents have been pulling their kids off the football field. last season, there were nearly 10,000 fewer high schoolers playing the game than the previous season. >> the issue honestly is not about concussion. >> no? >> it should be concern more about exposure to blows to the head. >> reporter: as dr. amalu sees it those highly publicized concussions which the nfl hopes to address with its new concussion protocol are rare, compared to repeated blows to the head when the brain gets jostles to the skull in sports like boxing, hockey. today more lawsuit were filed by more nhl players. >> bottom line, is football too dangerous a sport? >> all i would say is that there are certain types of sports that are high-impact contact sports. >> would you let your son play football? >> having seen what i have seen
in the brains of people who played football, i wouldn't let my son play. >> you think they're still in denial in ways? >> in some ways. >> reporter: he insists he isn't out to take down america's favorite pastime, simply raise the safety standards. >> as a former college football player myself i went to the theater expecting to see a movie about football and concussions. but what i walked away with was a movie about an american hero from nigeria. >> it's not a movie about football. it's a movie about our common humanity as for ben utecht, "counting the daysntil my mind slips away" chronicles his battles with head injuries and the aftereffects. he like many nfl players forever grateful for what the great game gave them, now haunted by what it may have taken away. movie "concussion" hits theaters christmas day. next, why these little american girl dolls are big business.
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the american girl doll phenomenon is something of an obsession are reserve. once you're hooked it's only a matter of time before your child is begging you for clothing, accessories, tea party visits. it can add up to a small fortune. how these dolls are big business raking in millions every year. here's abc's david wright. >> reporter: if you don't know any girls of a certain age you might have been spared this
phenomenon. but if you do know any, girls about madeline's age -- >> it's funny! >> reporter: just surrender. >> what are you going to tell santa? >> to get grace. >> reporter: grace this year's american girl doll available for just two more weeks in stores, then she disappears onto ebay where sold-out items like the grace doll's french bakery set are already being scalped for a caggering $4,900. for parents of little american girls, the american girl doll can become an obsession, especially this time of year. >> happy? >> reporter: an old-fashioned doll marketed like a collector's item like mega stores like this one on new york's fifth avenue, american girl place. the company founded in middleton, wisconsin, 30 years ago by a woman named pleasant roland who sold out to mattel, the folk hot make barbie. barbie sales have been tumbling,
down 16% last year. mattel grossed $620 million on american girl dolls last year alone. at american girl place you can special order a doll that looks just like you, right down to the texture of her hair and the color of her eyes. every year there's a featured doll, grace this year. sage, mckenna, isabel, and others from years past. >> i have her. >> reporter: all of them and their accessories available only for one calendar year. even of them has an elaborate back story. in grace's case she's a kid trying to save her grandparents' bakery. there's even a movie that brings her story to life. >> welcome to the new england cupcakers! >> your favorite color. >> reporter: the store has interactive exhibits immersing you inn your doll's life story. >> here a girl can pick a mood and see herself in the past of what it would have been like in rebecca's time. >> reporter: there's a restaurant where you can treat your doll to lunch. and a hair salon to primp and
pamper her. for dolls that are broken or bruised the american girl dolls have a hospital. we're going to put it to the test. these are two actual dolls open t owned by my two daughters. they have loved them a little too well. the haircuts and the makeup, they've a little something to be desired. now we're going to see if they can be fixed. the package shipped off to wisconsin, american girl headquarters. >> very well loved dolls. >> reporter: about that rehab process which in our case american girl comped. more in a moment. most little girls treat theirs with a little more care than mine did. 11-year-old annabella cohen from manhattan has been collecting them since she was 2. >> how many do you have here? >> here is 31. but there are a couple out at my beach house. >> that's a lot of dolls. >> reporter: she has all the
accessories too. >> how are you? >> good. >> how much do you think all of this cost? >> i'm not that good at math so -- thousands of dollars. >> all this stuff is very girlie. >> yeah. >> but do you think that it's too girlie? where's the science kit? >> there is. a lot of this is super, super girlie, i don't think a boy would go near it. >> reporter: that's fine with her and her friends. girl hot might otherwise be playing with barbie dolls. >> i never liked barbie dolls, they're so tiny, you can't really play with the different pieces. i would always step on them. >> reporter: each year the company tends to sell out of some deposits and that can lead to huge disappointments this time of the year. parents like lynn -- >> it puts a lot of pressure on mom. i had a very disappointed girl last christmas. >> presumably the kids are not that understanding. >> no. of course not. they want what they want.
>> santa can sort it out? >> santa makes everything happen, but sometimes mom and dad can't. >> reporter: so as you can imagine, it's with some small sense of concern about the college fund that i brought my youngest, madeline -- >> this one is my favorite. >> reporter: -- to american girl place. having explained that stacy markland, the store manager -- >> this is grace. walk in and meet her. >> reporter: -- is one of santa's elves. >> this is the one you like? >> yes. >> why? >> i don't know why. actually -- >> reporter: we stop to meet with the doctor to hear about those two dolls her sisters trashed. >> our doctors at the doll hospital know exactly what to do. >> reporter: and to pick out some outfits for them when they come back. >> should we get those for your doll? >> yeah. >> reporter: back at american girl headquarters, those two dolls are getting the full makeover. >> we're all back from surgery.
and things look like they went pretty well. >> they went very well. >> these dolls look beautiful. >> reporter: a miraculous transformation. >> she's in a hospital gown. >> reporter: when they arrive back home it's like christmas has come early. for the older two. >> we just got them back. >> reporter: little madeline will just have to borrow her sisters' dolls. thee at least for one more week. i'm david wright for "nightline" in new york. and next, "star wars: the force awakens" is about to detonate on screens across the country. heralding in a new era. fans are geeking out. starthe first star iht, see tonight
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finally tonight, it's the movie everyone's talking about. the hype train that has hit hyperdrive. the light speed saepdcy to otherworldly glory that survived nearly four decades. what made this franchise a force to be reckoned with? here's my "nightline" coanchor dan harris. >> 38 years ago in a galaxy not so far away wide-eyed dreamer created what has today become a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, "star wars." with total franchise revenue of more than $30 billion, it's hard to imagine that it all started with an original budget of just $11 million. since then the seven films have been shot around the world in
ten trees on five different continents. chewbacca is the tallest towering in at 7'2". the shortest, yoda, 2'2". runner-up, r2d2, 3'8". nothing small about the oscar attention though. the current six films together have been nominated for an incredible 25 statues and taken home 10. three of them were for special achievement awards. every year "star wars" fans celebrate may the 4th as an official "star wars" holiday, as in may the 4thn with you. fans took two days and 250,000 lego bricks to build a 15-foot model of "the millennium falcon." not nerdy enough for you? lehigh university math students calculated it would take 852 quadrillion dollars to build a real death star. when the first trailer for episode 7 was released 55
million excited fans viewed it on youtube in the first 24 hours. if that's any indication something tells me the force will seem strong this friday. >> our thanks to dan. "star wars: the force awakens" comes from our parent company disney. yoda said, do or do not, there is no try. thank you for watching. tune into "good morning america" first time tomorrow. and as always we're online 24/7 on our "nightline" facebook page and abcnews.com. good night, america. have you been on? so how mas well, tonight was the third one, and i know it's kinda early, but i'm getting this feeling. i don't know-- i think she might be... what do you mean? "the one"? arare you saying th you think angela might be the one? awright, whoa. let's not jump the gun, okay? don't forget,
he married one that wasn't the one. so when are we gonna meet her? well, listen, i would love that, but i'm a little afraid about bringin' her over here 'cause, you know, mom and dad will pop by, and i kinda don't want her to meet them until...ever. no, no, no! you bring her over to meet mom and dad right away! you gotta get it over with quick-- it's like rippin' off a band-aid. yeah, you let her know what she's in for, and if she doesn't run away screamin', then you know you got a keeper. am i i right, sqeezioli? go away. what about saturday night? 'cause your parents are goin' to atlantic city with lee and stan. you're sure? yes, it woululd be perfect. saturday night. i'll make dinner that's ather band-aid.