Five years ago, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady became the short-term focal point of concussions in football after his wife disclosed that he has had multiple concussions. Currently, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the face of concussions in the NFL.
On Monday, Brady addressed the situation in his Let’s Go! podcast. Jim Gray set the table by giving Brady a broad invitation to comment on recent events.
“Notably what’s happened with the concussions and Tua and the changing now of the protocols,” Gray said, via a transcript circulated by SiriusXM. “Tom, what are your thoughts on just what we’ve seen, you had it yesterday in your game with Cameron Brate, he had to leave the game, didn’t appear that he was in a circumstance where he couldn’t play. In fact, I believe he did come back into the game and then was ruled out later. What do you make of what’s gone on here in the past seven days?”
“Well,” Brady said, “I think concussions are a part of contact sports and I think, you know, I watch boxing, I watch UFC, people are knocked out quite a bit. So, you know, that’s part of playing these very physical sports and all of them come with risks associated with it. And I think when you’re an athlete that chooses to do that you’ve got to understand this is part of it. Just like you can injure other parts of your body as well. So, I think my view has always been an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and to do your best you could do to try to be really proactive with your health and to make sure that when you do get injured you can recover as quickly as possible and get your body in the best position possible to give it the best nutrients possible to deal with whatever trauma you kind of come into contact with.”
Gray then asked Brady whether the protocols need to change.
“Well, I think those are all being evaluated, no doubt,” Brady replied. “But, at the same time, I think that, again, I think so much is focused kind of on the aftermath of that. I think what can we do in advance in order to help us athletes be in a position where we can deal with the physical elements of sport? Because you’re not gonna be able to take them out of sports. You know, that’s just not the reality. If you want to play two-hand touch football, there’s not gonna be a lot of people that tune in.
“Concussions, knees, I’d say most athletes would probably rather deal with a concussion than deal with a knee injury, you know? So there’s gonna be knee injuries, there’s gonna be ankle injuries, there’s gonna be concussions, there’s gonna be shoulder injuries. I think that we all kind of jump to these thoughts and conclusions in a short period of time. But at the same time this is just what sports are. And I think you’ve got to take the good with the bad. And I think that no one ever wants to see anyone get hurt. No one ever wants to see anyone injured. No one ever wants to see a concussion. No one ever wants to see an ankle sprain. No one ever wants to see a knee injury. But they happen. I think, how do we deal with them in the best possible way? What are the best practices associated with prevention of them, as well as if you do get them, how do you recover as quickly as possible? So I think that should be really a focus as well. How do you implement those protocols for athletes? And it’s something that we should all think about so we can do a better job of in the future.”
It’s unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent concussions via nutrition. (Brady’s TB12 guru, Alex Guerrero, at one point was selling a drink that supposedly prevents head injuries.)
On the field, players can protect themselves in a way that minimizes the chances of taking blows to the head. Quarterbacks can get rid of the ball faster, hit the deck voluntarily, or otherwise avoid taking hits.
Brady’s attempt to equate concussions to other injuries is understandable, but it ignores the fact that knee and ankle injuries won’t jeopardize the flow of future football players. Concussions, and the handling of them, can.
Yes, grown men should be allowed to assume the risks associated with participation in contact sports. Indeed, boxing and UFC and other combat-related competitions entails far greater risks of multiple head injuries in a short period of time.
In this regard, football falls victim to its popularity. People pay more attention to head trauma in football than in other sports, because far more people are paying attention to football. And far more people play football at young ages. There’s no billion-dollar college boxing or college UFC or college wrestling industry. But there’s a multi-billion-dollar college football industry, which feeds the NFL. And high-school football feeds college football.
So the NFL, in the hopes of not having the system of developing future great football players collapse upon itself, has shown far greater sensitivity to concussions than other sports. The existence of those other sports doesn’t hinge on the immersion of little kids, adolescents, high-schoolers, and/or college students. The existence of football does.
That’s the difference between football and boxing and the UFC. That’s why the NFL strives to have the best possible protocols for dealing with concussions. The NFL believes it must set a standard that will make parents feel more comfortable (or less uncomfortable) about letting their kids play.