Does Boxing Have Better Brain Trauma Policies Than the NFL?

In the wake of the high profile mishandling of Tua Tagovailoa’s on field concussions by the NFL one professional boxing commissioner has called out the league for their health and safety standards. The below is written by Gregory Sirb, the long acting Executive of Pennsylvania’s State Athletic Commission that oversees various professional combat sports including pro boxing.

I’ll let Greg’s views speak for themselves. Which sport do you think has better policies and track record when it comes to taking brain health seriously?


Boxing vs the NFL in safety protocols:

The past few weeks in the NFL has once again exposed the major hypocrisies it has when it comes to player safety and concussions.  On September 25, with millions of viewers watching, Miami Dolphin QB Tua Tagovailoa suffered what clearly appeared to be some form of head trauma late in the second quarter  – he literally could not stand on his own and  at the time of the hit he fell down and was helped to his feet by his teammates.  Everyone correctly assumed that Tua was done for the game under the so-called Concussion Protocols established by the NFL.  But then miraculously only after some 20-25 minutes of being evaluated Tua returns to the game.  Keep in mind this so-called medical evaluation that was done at half-time on Tua was some very subjective (not quantitative) measures done by a so-called independent neuro expert.

  So as a boxing regulator I envisioned the same scenario described above only this time Tua was a pro boxer competing in a pro boxing match in Pennsylvania.  At the time of the hit seeing that Tua could not stand and had wobbly legs the Referee in this match would have stopped this bout and award a TKO win for Tau’s opponent.  Tua would have been given a minimum (30) day medical suspension ( in this case with seeing that Tua could not stand on his own this suspension would more likely have been 45-60 days) and Tua would have been evaluated at ring side by the ring-side physician.  This medical suspension is enforced throughout the US as per Federal law ( Pro Boxing Safety Act-1996).

Yet, in the NFL with all its millions of $$ and world-wide popularity they still cannot get it right when it pertains to head-trauma.  The NFL can say all it wants about its so-called concussion protocol but in my opinion football is behind boxing when it comes to caring about participant safety.   Look, football is a great game. I love the sport.   My son played high school and college football- I am a fan.  But the NFL continues to  make terribly-public medical errors in how it treats its players.  In the boxing business there is a saying – “sometimes you (the regulator) or in this case the NFL must protect the athlete from himself.

Do you know how many NFL players don’t even wear a mouthguard?- a mouthguard is NOT mandated in the NFL.  In pro boxing a mouthguard is required – it is a mandated piece of equipment no boxer can start a round without a mouthguard.     Although there is mixed research on the safety value (concerning concussions) and the wearing of a mouthguard wouldn’t the NFL want its players to have all the safety equipment available to them-?

  In the after math of the Tua situation-the NFL fired the so-call independent medical evaluator which I guess is a good start.  But how about having teams forfeit games when proper concussion/safety protocols are not enforce – now that’s a hammer the NFL can really use and would definitely get the attention of all the NFL teams – but the likely hood of that happening is slim to none.

Many in the medical community always look and speak about Boxing as being the most dangerous sport in America – from the above scenario –  You tell me which sport is more dangerous.

Gregory P Sirb

Executive Director

PA State Athletic Commission


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