The NFL said in a report released Friday that 271 concussions were documented during the 2015 season, an increase of 65 from the previous season.
It is the highest number of reported concussions in an NFL season since 2012, when there were 261 reported.
The NFL revealed the statistics in its annual injury data report, which includes concussions from preseason and regular-season practices and games.
NFL officials were encouraged last January when concussion data for 2014 revealed the fewest reported concussions since 2012. There were 206 concussions documented in 2014. NFL officials cited changes to in-game rules and practice schedules as a way to better deal with concussion problems.
But Jeff Miller, the NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy, said the league’s reporting of injuries changed this year to include more than simply players missing games, which was the case in previous years. So it is uncertain if the increase in concussions compared with previous years is significant, or whether the decreased threshold for reporting and diagnosing concussions contributed to the higher incidence.
“We’ll certainly take a look at it,” Miller said Friday on a conference call. “We’re interested in getting some comparative numbers with the new tracking system.”
According to the league’s report, there were 182 concussions in regular-season games in 2015. Eight concussions from regular-season practices also were documented. There were 81 documented concussions during the 2015 preseason, including 52 in games.
“I think we’re lowering the threshold,” said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee. “Years ago, you had to be nearly knocked down or knocked out for it to be called a concussion. Now, if a player gets knocked down and the injury is such that the head hits the ground and they stagger when they get up, the team trainer and physician will pull that player out. We’ve lowered the threshold.”
The data revealed that 92 of the 182 documented concussions during regular-season games were the result of another helmet, the highest number since 2012, when 91 concussions were caused by another helmet. Playing surface (29) and the shoulder (23) were the other top causes of concussions in 2015, according to the injury data.
“We’ll pore over the numbers,” Miller said. “We’ll look for ways to improve the health and safety of our players.”
There were 229 documented concussions in 2013, according to the NFL.
The NFL’s injury report also revealed 56 ACL sprains during the 2015 season, seven more than 2014. There were 170 MCL sprains in 2015, an increase of 31 from 2014.
The injury rate per game for Sunday and Monday was 6.6, which is less than 2014 (7.3). But the injury rate for Thursday games was 5.7, an increase from 2014 (4.8).