NFL reports 13 percent drop in concussions from last season

By Khalil Garriott, senior editor

NEW YORK — The NFL announced that concussions this season were reduced by 13 percent from last year and concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet hits had decreased by 23 percent.

The numbers were released Thursday during the league's annual Player Health and Safety press conference.

Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy, said there are uniform protocols on the sideline for diagnosing concussions that have helped to make the game safer.

"We feel confident in the data," Miller said. "There will be inevitable statistical abnormalities year over year."

Miller said the NFL had 228 diagnosed concussions during the 2013 preseason and regular season combined, down from 261 in 2012. Concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet hits dropped from 117 in the 2012 preseason and regular-season practices and games to 90 this season.

"We'll continue to look at this data as this injury continues being of great importance," Miller said.

Also, ACL injuries were down, falling from 57 in the 2013 preseason and regular season, compared to 63 last year. MCL injuries were relatively flat with 133 this year and 132 last year.

"There has been no significant increase or decrease in MCL injuries over the last three years," Miller said. "Overall, we have not seen any increase in the ACL injuries."

Members of the NFL community also discussed developments in the 2013 season, injury data and research advances:

  • Dr. Mitchell Berger, subcommittee chair on former players and long-term effects of brain and spine injury of the NFL Head, Neck & Spine Committee, described the advances his group has made regarding head injuries. He has been integral in the addition of independent neurospecialists on each sideline during games.

"We were always welcomed by the team physicians and the medical staffs of all the teams," Berger said. "We're not there to replace the team physicians; they're very good at what they do. Because it's such a fast-paced game, to have an extra set of eyes can only help."

Berger explained a term called connectivity, which explores the possibility of a concussion occurring when certain areas of the brain aren't communicating together.

  • Dr. John York, chairman of the NFL owner's health and safety committee, said progress has been made on and off the field. The San Francisco 49ers CEO touched on the eight National Institutes of Health-funded grants totaling $16 million that they hope will answer some of the most fundamental questions on traumatic brain injury.
  • And Dr. Matthew Matava, the St. Louis Rams' team physician and president of the NFL Physicians Society, outlined technical advances to evaluate players for injuries, including video capabilities.

Matava oversees the activities of all NFL team physicians. He demonstrated a baseline assessment program that includes a list of symptoms and gives a composite score that helps measure the severity of the injury, including possible concussions.

"This has been a very helpful tool in our assessment and management of concussions," Matava said. "Our goal, first and foremost, is the health and safety of the players." Matava added that there's been no pressure within the Rams organization for an injured player to return to the field during his tenure there.

"We have always argued … that the team physicians should be the ones to make the final call on whether there's a concussion," he said.

Berger said it's encouraging that the number of concussions is going down. "We try to be very, very proactive in terms of letting them (players) know about the signs and symptoms."

Also, the NFL released a graphic that indicated the amount of injuries on "Thursday Night Football" games compared to Sunday and Monday games are similar. There has been player and media criticism that Thursday night games do not give players proper healing time when it follows a Sunday game.

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