Reported concussions rose slightly during the NFL’s 2019 preseason and regular season, increasing from 214 in 2018 to 224, according to data released Thursday by the league.
The new total remained well below the previous three-year average from 2015 to 2017 (266.3), an outcome that league executives attributed to the permanence of a series of rule and policy changes implemented after the 2017 season.
After recording 281 concussions in 2017, the league overhauled the kickoff and added a new rule that prohibited players from lowering their heads to initiate contact with opponents. It also worked with the NFL Players Association to evaluate helmets and banned players from using certain outdated or underperforming models.
Speaking Thursday on a conference call with reporters, NFL executive vice president of health and safety initiatives Jeff Miller said the 2019 numbers validated the drop from 2017 to 2018 and created a “new benchmark” for future efforts.
“From here on,” Miller said, “we are going to be driving our concussion reduction efforts against that new benchmark. Last year’s number was a substantial drop. This year’s number is statistically similar to it. We feel as if we’ve found a new place from where we need to continue to push down the number of concussions.”
The NFL’s most concerning concussion number was revealed this past fall: a rise in concussions during preseason games from 34 in 2018 to 49 in 2019. Owners and players, however, are discussing a possible reduction in the preseason as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.
Meanwhile, the league said that ACL and MCL injuries each dropped to a five-year low in 2019. There were 47 ACL tears during the preseason and regular season, compared to an average of 56.5 during the previous four seasons. There were 109 MCL injuries, compared to an average of 140.5 from 2015 to ’18.