Concussions in NFL games dropped by 11.3 percent in 2016 preseason and regular-season games, according to statistics released Thursday by the league. The 244 concussions reported were down from the 275 reported in 2015 but still were higher than in 2014 (206) and 2013 (229).
Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy, said Thursday morning that the increased self-reporting of concussions by players and teams is a factor in the more recent overall increase.
“What we have to account for, too, are the additional protocols involved and the people involved in recognizing the injuries,” Miller said. “We have seen a significant culture change on those points,” adding that players and/or teammates and team officials have become increasingly aware of suspected head injuries.
The announcement of injury statistics came a day after the NFL and the NFL Players Association concluded in a joint review that the Dolphins did not properly follow the guidelines for handling potential concussions during a playoff game against the Steelers. Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore was visibly shaken after a big hit but was not taken to the locker room for further evaluation. Last year, the league and union came to the same conclusion after Rams quarterback Case Keenum suffered a head injury but was left in the game.
Concussions on kickoff returns dropped 15 percent, partly because of a 2016 rule change that moved touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25 to entice teams not to return as many kicks. There were 17 reported concussions on kickoff returns, compared to 20 in 2015. In the regular season, 39.3 percent of kickoffs were returned, down from 41.1 percent in 2015.
There were more total injuries on kickoff returns in 2016. The league reported 39 injuries, including concussions, tears of the ACL and MCL and hamstring injuries. There were 35 such injuries in 2015.
The 25-yard-line touchback rule was approved on a one-year basis and will be reviewed by owners at their March meetings.
The statistics also indicated a continuing trend of fewer injuries in Thursday night games. For the last four seasons, fewer injuries were reported in those games than in ones played Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Last season, there were slightly fewer than six injuries per Thursday game, compared to slightly fewer than seven in other games.