NFL League says concussions fell 11.3 percent in 2016

Data showed the total number of concussions reported in NFL in 2016 was 244, down from 275 over the same span in 2015.

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Concussions during NFL games dropped from 183 in 2015 to 167 in 2016, an 8.7 percent fall that coincides with the league and its players union enforcing concussion protocol through investigations and possible disciplinary actions play

Concussions during NFL games dropped from 183 in 2015 to 167 in 2016, an 8.7 percent fall that coincides with the league and its players union enforcing concussion protocol through investigations and possible disciplinary actions

(Getty/AFP/File)
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The number of concussions suffered by National Football League players this past season fell 11.3 percent from the prior campaign, falling in line with a five-year average, the league announced Thursday.

Data compiled by QuintilesIMS Injury Surveillance and Analytics showed the total number of concussions reported in all NFL practices, pre-season and regular-season games in 2016 was 244, down from 275 over the same span in 2015.

"That number, 244, is aligned with about a five-year average, so those numbers are relatively consistent in that regard," NFL senior vice president for health and safety Jeff Miller said in a posting on the league's website.

The 2016 concussion figure was higher than the 206 reported in 20nfl14 or the 229 from 2013 but below the 261 from 2012, which help form a five-season average of 242 concussions per campaign.

"I'm encouraged that the numbers are down, but I'm still far from satisfied," said Dr. Mitchel Berger, a member of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee.

"As a health care provider, I think, one of our absolute highest priorities is to get these numbers further down. We're going to have to really think about the ways we can do this."

Concussions in regular-season games dropped from 183 in 2015 to 167 in 2016, an 8.7 percent fall that coincides with the league and its players union enforcing concussion protocol through investigations and possible disciplinary actions.

Among 42 rule changes since 2002 aimed at reducing concussions are extra penalties for blows to the head or harsh hits upon quarterbacks or receivers as well as a medical observer who can halt games if needed and remove players from the field if they appear to have suffered a stunning blow to the head.

"Spotters are calling down to the field more frequently and they're calling down conservatively," said Dr. Christina Mack, director of epidemiology and outcomes research with QuintilesIMS.

"Almost 70 percent of the players called (for examination) by an ATC are cleared to return to play after examination."

Concussions on kickoff returns dropped from 20 in 2015 to 17 this past season. The league altered the rule to move a touchback to the 25-yard-line to provide extra incentive to avoid collisions, with that one-season experiment to be reviewed by NFL club owners later this year.

"We've also seen an increase in self-reported concussions this year over last year, with last year being the first year that we really saw a significant number of self-reported concussions," said Dr. John York, chairman of the NFL owners' Health and Safety Advisory Committee.

"So those all are all good changes with regards to the concussion protocol. And I would also say that they have an effect that may cause an increase in the number of concussions that we identify."

NFL: No more injuries on short rest

In a move that will help NFL owners defend scheduling Thursday games for teams that leave some squads only three days of rest between contests, Mack said 2016 data showed no evidence shorter breaks between games produce more injuries.

"We found that there is no evidence in an increase in injuries when teams participate in a Thursday night game," Mack said.

"Injury rates do not increase when teams have shorter intervals between games."

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