2 Reasons NFL QB Escaped a TBI, TBI Recovery and Even Death After Helmet Smash to the Head in NFL Brawl.

It was once an unsightly scene in Cleveland on Thursday evening, when Myles Garrett ripped off Mason Rudolph’s helmet and struck him with it. But experts in head and brain injuries told USA TODAY Sports it could’ve been far worse.

“The number one thing you’d worry about (when) being hit in the head by a football helmet, when you don’t have a football helmet on your head, is a skull fracture,” said Robert Cantu, medical director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “And a skull fracture, and the associated brain trauma, could have killed him — or produced a very serious brain injury.”

Cantu said Rudolph, 24, benefited from a few key factors Thursday night, in the waning seconds of the Cleveland Browns’ 21-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Garrett struck Rudolph with the helmet near the top of his head, where the skull is at its thickest, as opposed to near his ear or temple area, where it’s thinner. And he was hit with the open side of the helmet, rather than the top.

Gerald Grant, a professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University, said he watched video of the incident alongside a group of engineers and helmet manufacturers in Youngstown, Ohio — where, coincidentally, the NFL officially kicked off its “Helmet Challenge” on Thursday, in an effort to encourage the development of safer equipment.

The average NFL helmet weighs between 4 and 6 pounds, according to data from the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. And while it is designed to protect the head when worn, it is no different than any other 4-pound object when removed and swung toward an unprotected head.(