NFL Doctor Says Rising Concussion Numbers Are ‘Not OK’

League data show 16 percent rise in diagnosed concussions last year.

Clinton Portis #26 of the Washington Redskins suffers a concussion on a play. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Getty Images

A surge in NFL concussion numbers has sparked a “call to action” among league officials responsible for brain health. The NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said the league will react aggressively to data that showed a stunning 16 percent rise in concussions in 2017. During last year’s season, there were a total of 291 diagnosed concussions, including preseason, regular season and postseason games. In 2016, there were 250 concussions during that time. This means that overall, nine percent of NFL players suffered diagnosed concussions in 2017. That averages out to 0.7 concussions per game and about nine per team. Some of that total is attributed to higher levels of self-reporting by players. ESPN reports that in 2017, 47 percent of concussions involved a player talking about their symptoms with a medical official. This is the highest percentage on record. Sill told committee members that self-reporting data shouldn’t be used as a shield.

“It’s not OK,” Sills said according to ESPN, “to simply stand behind that and say, ‘Well, the numbers are going up because we’re doing a better job.’ I think to me this is really a call to action to see what we can do to drive it down.”

The NFL is going to start a process that will follow three specific paths to reduce concussions: 1. Increasing the use of what the NFL considers safer helmets; 2. Decreasing preseason concussions by pointing out warning signs to individual teams; 3. Work with football operations on the style of play.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.