One of the top neurosurgeons in the United States, Dr. Julian Bailes, says concerns about concussions shouldn’t stop anyone from playing football, so long as they understand the risks.

Bailes, a former department chair at West Virginia University and founder of the Brain Injury Research Institute was portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin in the 2015 film “Concussion.” 

During comments made on West Virginia MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Bailes says that “the majority of people do not end up with brain damage playing football,” adding that leagues across the board, from Pop Warner to the NFL, have all made changes to reduce “unnecessary obligatory head contact.”

Bailes, an outspoken critic of the NFL’s concussion policy, admits that the league has done a lot to deal with the problem of mitigating head injuries. “I’m not sure there is a whole lot more they can do. During the last Collective Bargaining Agreement they reduced the number of contact practices to 14, they have eliminated the egregious head to head hits, so I think they have done many things to reduce the gratuitous unnecessary head contact,” Bailes says. 

As much as the NFL has done, Bailes says the youth side of the sport has also responded to the problem. “Pop Warner eliminated head contact drills in practice, they reduced practice contact time down to one-fourth of all the hours of the week, and this past season they eliminated kickoffs for the younger age groups,” Bailes says.

Advances in equipment are also part of dealing with concussions. Bailes notes that improved helmet design, as well as innovative solutions – such as a collar that increases the amount of blood in the head, which stabilizes the brain – are part of the equation as well.

The full recording of Baines’ comments on “Talkline” can be found here

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.