Michael McCrea suspected that, when he and his wife sat together in their Milwaukee home in the fall of 2013 and watched “League of Denial,” the PBS documentary on concussions in football, they would be viewing it through a prism unique from thousands of other parents who tuned in that night.

McCrea, a neuropsychologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, has played a part in some of the most important advancements in sport concussion research in the past two decades. But when his wife, Ann Marie, soaked in the stories of former NFL players whose brains had betrayed them later in life – players who battled depression and rage and confusion and memory loss – she turned to her husband and said she would be reluctant to let their 6-year-old son, Joe, play football when he became old enough. McCrea was appalled that, in the mind of the person who knew him best, a few jarring anecdotes rendered moot much of the work he had spent his career advancing.

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