Motorhead fan suffered brain injury from headbanging, report says

Lemmy Kilmister, lead singer of Motorhead, performs at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in April.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

There is no greater accolade for a hard rock band than to be considered “dangerous,” and if any band ever qualified it would be Motorhead.

The group is reputed to be one of the loudest bands in the world, and Lemmy Kilmister, its founder and front man, is a truly scary sight, with a singing voice to match.

Now comes word from the Lancet, the British medical journal, that Motorhead appears to have been literally dangerous for a veteran heavy metal fan in Germany who suffered self-inflicted brain damage at a January 2013 Motorhead show.


The theory, his doctors report in a just-published article headlined “Chronic Subdural Haematoma Secondary to Headbanging,” is that the unnamed 50-year-old man shook his head so violently to Motorhead’s thunderous bashing that his brain began to bleed. The Associated Press reported that the patient told his doctors that he had no history of head injuries or substance abuse, but “he had been headbanging regularly for years.”

For the uninitiated, headbanging does not involve actually banging one’s head against a hard surface. It’s the act of violently whiplashing the noggin back and forth in time to the music. This can have a striking visual effect if the practitioner’s hair is long enough, especially if done en masse.

According to the AP report, after attending the Motorhead concert with his son the patient began to suffer “constant, worsening headaches.” He checked into Hannover Medical School and a CT scan showed his brain was bleeding.

Doctors drilled a hole through the man’s skull to drain the blood, according to the AP, and his headaches quickly disappeared. Neurologists said a benign cyst they found in his cranium may have made him more vulnerable to a headbanging injury.

“We are not against headbanging,” said Ariyan Pirayesh Islamian, who treated the patient and is one of three co-authors of the Lancet article. “The risk of injury is very, very low.” Islamian added, however, that it probably wouldn’t have happened at a classical concert.

Although this gives us one more thing in the world to worry about, it should be noted that there are many fan behaviors at concerts that are far more dangerous. Among them are overconsumption of alcohol or mind-altering drugs, moshing, stage diving, clambering up speaker stacks -- and not using protective earplugs when listening to, say, Motorhead.