More on Brain Injury in the NFL

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.

Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publishing

If you watch football on Thanksgiving, keep the players’ brain health in mind.

Alan Schwarz of the NY Times has been a dogged defensive end, in hot pursuit of this story. Read his latest contribution here.

He points out that the National Football League (NFL) has been slow to assess penalties on players who take violent shots at their opponents’ heads. There is much ambivalence among football insiders, evidenced by the comments of former players and coaches covering the game for television. Some of them support tightening the rules, others complain the game will be weakened by more restrictive rules on how players can hit each other.

My view continues to be that the mark of toughness is restraint.


  1. richard

    sounds like a TBI to me.

  2. Anonymous

    Now we know and we must take care ourselves especially our head when we will going to play a physical game like Football (NFL).

  3. Personal Injury Lawyer

    I find that recently the NFL has made a good amount of progress in prevention of head injuries, and penalizing those players involved in plays deemed unsafe. As mentioned there will always be those that feel this added level of precaution detracts from the ruggedness of the game, we should remind ourselves that this is only a game and not worth one’s life or well-being.

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  4. Lisa Lane Brown

    Hi Michael,

    This is an interesting discussion.

    In my experience as a sport mental training coach, many athletes underplay injuries. In the NFL, where athletes are worth their weight in gold, this poses a problem. Especially when it comes to brain injuries. I have also heard this is a common problem in European soccer.

    Your friend,
    Lisa B.

  5. tal

    Hi michael
    Are brain injuries common in martial arts fights like mma,jiu jitsu or karate?


    • Michael Craig Miller, M.D.
      Michael Craig Miller, M.D.


      I don’t know! I assume you’re asking about martial arts practice in a sporting situation (as opposed to actual combat).

      The key question would be, how often do practitioners suffer concussive impacts to the head? People who observe the sport are in a better position to weigh in on that question.

      For people who do martial arts as exercise or hobby, or for competitors who practice, it is probably a good idea (in principle) to avoid head impacts during practice. That is an approach recommended for football practices at many levels now.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Michigan Personal Injury Attorneys

    As an injury attorney, I find this blog post interesting even though this is an older post. It gives the perspective that a few years ago the consensus was that the NFL wasn’t treating brain injuries serious enough. This year the hot topic was the excessive fines brought about by hits to the head. Your post seemingly predicted the future well. There’s a fine line between maintaining the toughness of the game while maintaining the health of their assets.

    • Stephen D Aarons

      As a New Mexico Personal Injury Attorney, I can’t agree that there is a fine line between toughness of a sport and safety. We really should – with few exceptions – err on the side of caution. We witnessed a couple of near fatal collisions in baseball because catchers are expected to block the plate. If home plate were always a force out, and blocking the plate and creaming the catcher were illegal, the bang/bang would be just as exciting without the high possibility of serious bodily injury. Why must young athletes have to risk life and limb for our amusement?

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  7. TheJavaGal

    Interesting post. I have been following the work of Dr. Amen for a couple of years, and through brain scans, he has been able to locate exact locations of brain injury caused by contact sports such as football, soccer, and boxing.

    Hopefully there will be much more focus in years to come on protecting our brains!


    “The serenity of mind, gentleness, silence, self-restraint, and the purity of mind are called the austerity of thought.” ~Bhagavad Gita – Kind of a problem when you have a brain injury.

  9. George Atkins

    A one piece orthopedic functional breathing Aide currently used for sleep apnea. It could support the mandible and reduce torsional impact re head injury during contact sport.

    George Atkins, DMD

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