Russell Wilson has raised some eyebrows and prompted a few chuckles over his statement that a $3-a-bottle water product with "nanobubbles" and electrolytes helped him recover from a nasty blow to the head in last season's NFC title game.
But Chris Nowinski isn't laughing. In fact, Nowinski -- one of the world's leading advocates for concussion awareness -- calls it inappropriate and reckless that Wilson said Reliant Recovery Water had anything to do with his feeling better after he was smashed in the head by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
"It's simply an irresponsible statement to make, especially for someone with such high visibility in the football world," Nowinski, executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute in Boston, said in an interview Thursday. "Concussions are a very serious issue, and in football, they primarily affect children. To confuse children and parents about ways to recover is just an unethical thing to do, especially when you're a role model."
In a recent profile in Rolling Stone magazine, Wilson said he recovered from the hit in large part because of his consumption of the product, although he said Thursday that he did not suffer a concussion.
What makes his assertion particularly unscrupulous, Nowinski said, is that Wilson is an investor in the company.
"I banged my head during the Packers game in the playoffs, and the next day I was fine," Wilson said. "It was the water."
Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, then remarked, "Well, we're not saying we have real medical proof."
But Wilson said it was the water that made him feel better. "I know it works," he said. "Soon you're going to be able to order it straight from Amazon."
Preposterous, according to Nowinski, whose organization is one of the leading research groups on concussions. Among the most important work done by the Sports Legacy Institute is the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a high percentage of deceased former football players whose brains were donated for scientific study.
"He's still wrong, even if he believes it," Nowinski said. "You're talking about a medical treatment for a brain injury. There are government rules and regulations around that to protect people's health."
There's another important element at play here, and that's the issue of whether Wilson actually suffered a concussion from the helmet-to-helmet hit. He never came out of the game, and neither the Seahawks nor Wilson acknowledged that he suffered a concussion. But Nowinski suggests that Wilson's contention that the water helped him overcome any difficulties relating to that play is an indication that he indeed may have had a concussion.
"I remember watching it live and I thought at the time that he needed to be removed because he showed signs of concussion on the field," Nowinski said. " . . . He's saying that water prevented the concussion."
Wilson said Thursday: "No, I didn't have a concussion. I guess it was perceived wrong. I was saying that I had been consistently drinking the water for a month, month and a half, five to seven times a day, and I was thinking, 'Maybe this stuff is helping me out.' "
Nowinski has his doubts.
"When he says the next day he was fine, that implies that the previous day, he wasn't fine," Nowinski said. "In my mind, that means he had a concussion and he just didn't have symptoms the next day . . . He attributes that to the water, when it could have been for other reasons.