Despite high-profile concussions such as the one that ended Luke Kuechly’s season, the NFL said overall cases dropped to 244 from 275 in 2015.
Injuries in the NFL decreased this season, including concussions.
Emphasizing that players are doing more self-reporting of head injuries, the league released data Thursday that show overall concussions for the preseason and regular season were down from 275 in 2015 to 244 in 2016. That includes a drop of 16 in regular-season games to 167.
The 275 diagnosed concussions in 2015 were a high over the past five years and were an increase of 69 over the previous season. But the NFL enhanced its detection and examination protocols in that span.
“What we have to account for, too, are the additional protocols involved and the people involved in recognizing the injuries,” NFL executive Jeff Miller said. “We have seen a significant culture change on those points.”
Dr. Robert Heyer, president of the NFL Physicians Society and team internist for the Panthers, cited the players’ willingness to report injuries as making a major difference in the numbers.
“I have been a team physician 22 years, and in the past three years I think we’ve seen a cultural change regarding concussions,” Heyer said. “As result of ongoing education, players are more likely to speak up if they believe they might have a concussion. I know what we are doing is making a difference, but we must continue to do more.”
A rule change regarding player safety of moving the ball to the 25-yard line on touchbacks had little effect on diminishing concussions, with a drop from 20 to 17. That information will be presented to the league’s competition committee for evaluation, Miller said.
The statistics also showed decreases in knee injuries from 2015-2016. Also of note was no conclusive evidence of more injuries on Thursday night games. The injury rate was less than from games played Saturday, Sunday and Monday.