The number of NFL concussions during the 2018 preseason and regular season dropped by 24 percent from the previous year, according to data released by the league on Thursday.
“We are excited and grateful,” Dr. Alan Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told a group of reporters at the league’s New York headquarters. “We articulated this as a goal, and we put in place a concussion-reduction strategy.”
There were 214 concussions in 2018, down from 281 in 2017. For the regular season only, there was a 29 percent decrease from 190 in 2017 to 135.
Sills said it was too soon to know whether recently enacted rules changes — especially to kickoffs — and improved helmets were a direct cause of the reduction. He was cautiously optimistic that many of the league’s initiatives helped reduce the incidence of concussions, but there is more work to be done.
“While we’re pleased that concussions are down, there is no finish line,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety policy. “We will keep at this. We will try to figure out why this [reduction] happened. There is still room for improvement.”
Dr. Christina Mack, director of epidemiology and health outcomes at IQVIA who tracks NFL injuries, said 75 percent of all players checked for concussions during regular-season and preseason games in 2018 were not diagnosed with the head injury.
“We remain committed and challenged by the goal of driving this [concussion] number down further,” Sills said.
Sills also said that of the seven teams that had a higher incidence of concussions before the 2018 season, six experienced declines. The NFL intervened with those teams, who were not identified, to find ways to reduce concussions in games and practices.
Miller said players from four teams next season will be equipped with mouthguards that have sensors to better monitor the force of collisions. Miller also said as many as 10 new helmet models will be introduced next season, continuing a trend of improved headgear designed to lessen the impact of hits to the helmet.
“We’ve been trying to create innovation,” he said. “We’re starting to see new [helmet] models, new ideas. We think that’s promising.”
The incidence of knee injuries saw a slight uptick in 2018 compared to the 2017 season. There were 57 ACL injuries in 2018, compared with 54 percent in 2017. There were 131 MCL tears in 2018, compared with 117 in 2017.