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NFL injury data shows that concussions went slightly up in 2019, but there are some positive developments as well

The NFL released its 2019 injury statistics earlier this month. Let’s take a look at the numbers.

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Over the years, the NFL has made numerous rule changes with the goal to increase player safety especially as it relates to head injuries. From banning the lowering of helmets to initiate contact, to eliminating blind-side blocks and running starts on kickoffs, to forcing players like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to switch helmet models to new designs, the league has tried its best to cut down the number of concussions.

The plan worked, as concussions went down quite a bit since the 281 that were diagnosed in 2017. That being said, there was still another increase again during the current season when compared to 2018: as the NFL announced last week when releasing its injury data for the 2019 preseason and regular season (via NFL Network’s Judy Battista), 224 concussions were diagnosed, 10 more than were reported during the previous campaign.

Despite concussion numbers going slightly up, however, NFL officials are pleased with the general development since the 2017 season, and how rule changes seemed to have positively impacted head injuries. This rings especially true when it comes to preseason: with the league banning high-impact drills such as the Oklahoma drill last spring, concussions went down from 45 in the summer of 2018 to 30 during the summer of 2019.

Furthermore, the awareness for head injuries appears to be trending in the right direction. According to NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, about one-third of the league’s 485 concussion evaluations during the 2019 season resulted from some degree of self-reporting by players. This in combination with games being stopped 19 times by the NFL’s concussion spotters has created a more open culture when it comes to head injuries.

Are concussions still an issue? Of course, but to expect a full-on elimination of head injuries is simply unrealistic considering the nature of the game. However, it seems that the league’s aggressive approach to getting the number of injuries down either through rule or equipment changes is working to some degree. Now, the question that remains is whether or not the NFL will undermine it again by pushing for a 17- or 18-game regular season...