According to the NFL’s own data, the league just went from a season in which there were most concussions recorded than ever before in 2017 to among the lowest. There were nearly 300 concussions diagnosed over the course of the 2017 season, including the preseason and the playoffs, but that was down to 218 last year, which is a lower figure than it has been for at least the past several years.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lauded the improvement, which he probably should after the game came under heavy fire for the figures from the previous season, with the league’s chief medical officer even calling it “a call to action”, and the NFLPA expressed similar concerns.
“I think we’ve been effective. I give credit to the players and coaches for the way they’ve played the game”, the commissioner said. He also credited the addition of the lowering the helmet rule as a factor in seeing this reduction.
But of course he would be motivated to say that, as that is exactly why the rule was even put into place last season. They identified such circumstances as among the highest risks of concussion and targeted it for regulation. At least on the surface it seems to have produced results. And Goodell claims that it is a genuine reduction in concussions and not a failure to report.
“What’s really remarkable about a close to 30 percent reduction in concussions is we actually have more screenings”, he said. The league averaged about 260 or so concussions per season from 2013 to 2016, so to see it drop down to below 220 is legitimately significant.
One of the reasons that concussions were so high in 2017 is because there was a significant rise in concussions being suffered during practices, which included both the regular season and in the preseason and training camp. It’s unclear why it was so high that season or why it dropped this past year.
Obviously, it’s impossible to totally eliminate head injuries from a game that is as inherently violent as football, but I’m sure the NFL will continue to work to reduce the numbers even further, for self-interested reasons, of course.
It’s not going to go over well with the old school fans who see the game that they grew up watching slowing changing before their eyes, even watching players blocking and tackling differently, but let’s be honest, the NFL wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think it was necessary for them to do so in the long run.