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The Beautiful Brain

An Audible Original
Narrated by: Hana Walker-Brown
Length: 3 hrs and 42 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,625 ratings)

Regular price: $6.95

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Our favorite moments from The Beautiful Brain

Jeff Astle was a life force...
What happened next would mark the Astle family forever…
It didn’t come gradually...it came like a juggernaut.
Why haven’t they done the research?

  • The Beautiful Brain
  • Jeff Astle was a life force...
  • The Beautiful Brain
  • What happened next would mark the Astle family forever…
  • The Beautiful Brain
  • It didn’t come gradually...it came like a juggernaut.
  • The Beautiful Brain
  • Why haven’t they done the research?

Episode 1: A Glass Half Full

Jeff Astle was a player that made history. But aside from the glorious chapters of his life on the pitch, away from the floodlights, Jeff’s story is a tragic testament to the effects of CTE. How it was discovered and the events that followed make a remarkable story that sent tremors throughout the Football Association, tremors that erupted across the globe and continue to rock both the world and the Astle Family.

Episode 2: An Inconvenient Truth

Host Hana Walker-Brown meets Dr. Bennett Omalu. A man so integral to the story of CTE, that they made a movie about him with Will Smith in the starring role. Doctor Omalu was the driving force behind the discovery of CTE amongst American NFL players including Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Webster. Doctor Omalu believed this discovery would change everything; a truth that could save thousands of lives the world over and change sport forever, but one that wouldn’t be well received by the sporting bodies he was up against. Something the Astle family would also soon find out.

Episode 3: The Punch-Drunk Wife

In comparison to men, the research on female brain injury is alarmingly low. The common term associated with women and concussion is TBI—Traumatic Brain Injury—and is defined as “an alteration in brain function or other evidence of brain pathology caused by an external force.” An external force like a football, or a boxing glove, or a fist. In this episode Hana explores the story of one of the first cases of CTE ever reported in a woman. Through her investigation, Hana meets the doctors and scientists dedicating their lives to researching female traumatic brain injury, and hears devastating personal testimony from survivors of intimate partner violence.

Episode 4: Long Live the King

In this last episode, Hana returns to the Midlands for one final meeting with the Astle family on the opening night of For The Love Of The Game, a play written by Mike Howl about Jeff’s life and death. She visits the Hawthorns—West Bromwich Albion’s football grounds—to meet the Albion Memories Dementia Group, an organization which provides space for partners and caregivers to chat with players of the past, share old photographs and trophies, and discuss their shared loved of the game to evoke memories that have been lost.

About the Creator

Hana Walker-Brown is an international award-winning documentary maker, composer, radio producer, and journalist based in London. Her work displays an exceptional range, enormous creativity and sensitivity, and beautiful storytelling. Her content makes for uncomfortable, moving, thought-provoking listening: everything audio should be. A gifted story teller and sound-smith, her productions use a range of subtle techniques, approaches, and textures that always honor the subject matter. Her work is rooted in the best tradition of radio feature-making but effortlessly incorporates the dynamism and new aesthetics of podcasting. Through her work, she is a fearless and passionate advocate of audio as a powerful medium for any story in this visual age. Hana is in the “2018 ReelWorld Radio Academy 30 Under 30” list of people who have shown exceptional tenacity, talent, and a proven trajectory to be the industry’s next generation of talent. An exceptional talent at the cutting edge of creative audio and storytelling, Hana is also a mentor for the Sound Women network, offering support and coaching to women who are starting out in radio and music industries.

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  • Kingsley
  • Henely Brook, Australia
  • 04-05-19

CTE and Sports - not just for soccer fans

CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is much talked about with American Football, Grid Iron, because of the hard hitting tackles, heavy helmets and the regularity of concussions. But it is not something as regularly associated with soccer (at least in my mind), as sport that is generally considered 'softer' and less 'violent'. The Beautiful Brain is an audio documentary that looks into CTE and the history and links it has with 'the beautiful game', Soccer, futbol, football.

While this is focused on soccer, impacts to the head through heading the ball, and particularly West Brom player, Jeff Astle, this is an audio production not just for soccer fans. It is something that all sports fans should be interested in, especially those who are playing sports where head injuries are a risk. It explains the science of CTE as we currently understand it (it is still early days).

CTE is a disease caused through head trauma (including things such as head butting a football). The more head trauma, the more likely you are to develop CTE. It is associated with dementia, problems with thinking and memory, personality changes, and behavioral changes including aggression and depression.

In the audio we hear interviews with people who know Astle (family and friends), scientists, doctors, and CTE experts. They talk about how knowledge of CTE has come about and grown, how the research and how the research is being reacted to. it talks about the symptoms and how they start to show over time and how they can be tested. They talk to doctors and scientist doing research with amateur players - not professionals - and showing the impact is not just for the elite players. It presents what the risks are - is a single headbutt enough, or is it repeated and regular that is required? Is there a genetic component?

It also talks about how the Football Association, NFL and other sports have reacted to the research – generally not doing much and trying to ignore the problem. It talks about how the FA failed to go the promised investigation into Astle’s death and it’s links to CTE. FA eventually changed their approach, but it took a long time and a lot of pressure.

There is a tangent in the middle – where it goes and talks about CTE and females. It moves away from sports – possibly because the sports that cause CTE are less often played by females – and discussed other causes. Primarily domestic violence, although there are other causes discussed. It discusses here how the study of CTE and women is even further behind the male research, due to the lower levels of occurrence. It’s an interesting discussion, and it does further the discussion around CTE, what it is and what we do about it, but it is definitely a tangent away from the sports conversation that the rest of the documentary focuses on. Although it does eventually circled back to women in sports and CTE.

This is an audio-documentary - filled with interviews, excerpts, and so forth guided by Hana Walker-Brown. Walker-Brown has put together the interviews and produced the audio. It is well put together, considering the mix of audio. It ranges from new interviews (some which have picked up background noise) to sound excerpts from football matches going back to the 1960's. But none of it is mixed poorly or at wrong levels.

There is also atmospheric music added behind the recording, and between 'scene' changes in places. While it is there to set the mood it is subtle and never feels overwhelming.

135 of 145 people found this review helpful

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Vitally important

Listening to the personal stories of people affected by this terrible condition brought me to a whole new level of understanding about CTE. I was surprised to learn about the physical and social CTE variances experienced by women. I was also inspired by all the front-line researchers, clinicians, reporters, and grass-roots capaigners working on this issue.

35 of 38 people found this review helpful

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Doesn't translate well to an audio book.

I am sure this was made for TV originally because it just doesn't work as an audiobook. I found myself tuning out in some spots, in others just listening to the sniffling and crying and gross snot sounds was making my eyes water at work (like when you see someone yawn and you have to yawn.)

I got almost to the end before I gave up, and this is a lot longer than I expected it to be. I feel like it could be summed up with a couple of sentences. "Being struck on the head by any means, whether once or repeatedly, can cause dementia to form later in life. Sports players and victims of domestic violence suffer from this the most."

There. That's the entire audiobook in a nutshell. I actually couldn't remember if I paid for this as I was going to get a refund if I did, but turns out it was a monthly freebie. At least there's that.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Admiralu
  • Camarillo, California United States
  • 04-07-19

Varied Dialects Difficult to Understand

I normally enjoy the journalism selections on Audible. I was interested in the subject matter. The Beautiful Brain turned out to be the most difficult Original I’ve ever listened to. I listen to a great deal of British drama and am used to a variety of accents including Scotch and Irish as well as the Queen’s English and other regional dialects. I had difficulty comprehending what the family and the doctor were saying due to their strong accents. Actors should’ve been used to relate the experiences so listeners could better understand. Repeat listening didn’t help much. The narrator was fine and I’m certain she felt that the individuals themselves should be heard. That would’ve worked much better for a filmed segment not an audio only and particularly for American listeners.
More time should’ve been spent on the journalists uncovering the survey coverup of the football and soccer agencies as well. Very disappointing.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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incredible series of interviews

I got this for free as an audible original one month, felt so lucky I did. this audiobook talks about how CTE was named, the mountains of research connecting participation in High Impact Sports with CTE, and spends the second half talking about the human stories behind CTE. Giving lights to both former athletes and their families as well as women who have suffered domestic violence.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Don’t expect any facts or sciene

Narration is all about the human aspect and personal stories related to cte. If you are looking for information about the science behind cte you should look elsewhere.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Quit listening early on.

I added this book to my library out of interest in neurological syndromes like CTE. Unfortunately, after briefly mentioning CTE in the introduction, the story veers off to cover at length and in detail the soccer career of a player who I can only assume eventually develops CTE. I stopped listening after the man’s team participation, successes, family life, etc. became the primary focus. I don’t much care for soccer and know nothing about British teams, so I got tired of waiting for the medical/scientific information. This presentation would be of more interest to soccer fans who understand and enjoy references to the sport and particular players, and who are less intrigued by the mechanisms and prognosis of CTE in participants of contact sports.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Piper
  • Ashby, MA United States
  • 04-10-19

Must listen. Must be shared with any/all soccer officials

The evidence continues to mount and large organizations that have $s to lose will continue to ignore. I will share this with league officials in my state and my sons soccer league ( middle school) and High School. Heartbreaking and senseless.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A must listen!

This is a awesome short from the audible originals. If you are even interested a little about this topic you need to hear this. This is something that should be in schools. The presentation is amazing and if you are a member, getting this is a no brainer... also don’t forget to take fish oil everyday.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Donate your brain!

Very well written and performed. We tend to brush aside so many sad devastating conditions, diseases and circumstances because we don't know what to do or how to deal with it. This book puts you square in middle of this scary disease with interviews of people and families that have suffered. As a former NFL linebacker, I can tell you it was hard at times to listen because in my mind I would put myself and my family in these peoples shoes...CTE needs to be studied. Data needs to collected and not just the worst cases. There is much to learn from the very bad cases but also from longtime athletes, veterans and abuse victims that don't present with horrible dementia. Like many diseases that start out untreatable, we need natural history studies to create a foundation of understanding that can lead not only to better acute protocol to treat but also as a basis for long term treatment of this chronic disease.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful