Brain Injury Association Logo


NFL Bungles Bengal Punishment


If you look at the career statistics for Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals, one thing becomes immediately obvious: the man has been penalized for unnecessary roughness more often than other offense. Of 269 accepted penalties since 2012, nearly half (132) have been for unnecessary roughness (

On Sunday, Burfict leveled his shoulder into the helmet of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown after an incomplete pass. Brown sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. The last time the Bengals and Steelers faced off, Burfict was fined almost $70,000 in penalties for similar behavior.

After the latest incident, the National Football League (NFL) suspended Burfict for three games next season. 

That’s right, only three games after intentionally hitting another player in the head with enough force to cause a concussion.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body that causes the brain to bounce or twist inside the skull, stretching and damaging brain cells and causing chemical changes in the brain. This movement can result in either a temporary alteration in consciousness (feeling dazed, stunned, or confused) or a loss of consciousness.

Some people who sustain concussions recover spontaneously, but for about 15 percent of those who experience a concussion, it is the beginning of a lifelong disease process that requires medical treatment, including rehabilitation.

The NFL has a serious problem on its hands. The movie Concussion, starring Will Smith, has increased public awareness of the dangers of concussions. The movie has helped make the public aware that the NFL has known for years that concussions are a serious problem among players.

Yet despite the publicity around the issue and a settlement with former players that could cost the NFL $1 billion, in December the league backed out of funding a Boston University study for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the link between football and brain injury ( NIH has since funded the study on its own.

Players like Vontaze Burfict who intentionally inflict potentially debilitating injury on other players need to be removed from the game for at least one season if not permanently.

The NFL can talk about its concern for player safety, but until they take real action against this type of behavior, their words are nothing more than lip service.

Brent E. Masel, M.D.
National Medical Director, Brain Injury Association of America
President and Medical Director, Transitional Learning Center at Galveston

© 2015 Brain Injury Association of America. All Rights Reserved. Website Maintained by: Chicago Digital

1608 Spring Hill Road, Suite 110 • Vienna, VA 22182 • Phone: 703-761-0750 • Fax: 703-761-0755
National Brain Injury Information Center (Brain Injury Information Only) 1-800-444-6443

Fact Sheets  •  Legal Notices  •  Advertise  •  CONTACT US