A launching hit that cost LB James Harrison $75,000 back in 2010. (Don Wright/Associated Press)
Concussions have been a huge issue in the NFL. Despite numerous efforts by the league to make the game safer, the problem of concussions is still lurking.
The NFL recently released figures on January 26; they stated there were 281 concussions diagnosed in the 2017 season. This number is the highest since the league started releasing concussion data publicly in 2012. The NFL has acknowledged concerns on the issue and has tried taking action to help players’ safety. They have put new rules in place, like giving “a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection” and adding “A player who has just completed a catch is protected from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who launches”. The NFL adds new guidelines to player health annually, for the public to see; the full list can be found here. Despite their consistent efforts, the issue of concussions in the league is still alive and well.
The hope was that with additions to player safety, the number of concussions would go down every year. This was not the case this year; the number jumped from 243 concussions diagnosed in 2016 to 281 in 2017. That’s a 15.6% increase. Furthermore, ever since the NFL’s concussion studies were made public in 2012, the average concussions per year has been 243 (ironically the same as the 2016’s season count). There was 38 more concussions this season than in 2016, as well as the previous five season average. Why is this?
There’s one huge factor that can explain this jump:
More Players Than Ever Are Self-Reporting Concussion Symptoms
This is a great reason that explains the jump seen in this season’s numbers. There has been a noticeably more players self-reporting concussion symptoms during games. There were 483 total concussion evaluations during games in 2017, and 47% of those evaluations were either directly or partly prompted by a player self-reporting.
Of that 47%, 28% of the evaluations resulted solely from a player self-reporting, and 19% involved both a player self-reporting and a doctor initiating the evaluation. In total, there were 50 more instances of players self-reporting in 2017 than in 2016.
With more players self-reporting, there is more concussion evaluations. With more concussion evaluations, there’s obviously going to be more concussions diagnosed. So honestly, in this case, the increased number for this season was partly good news. The players need to report to a team doctor if they feel concussion-like symptoms; the increase in them doing so rightfully increased the number of diagnosed concussions in 2017. And that’s okay.
At the end of the day, football is a violent and ruthless sport. There’s no way to eliminate concussions from the game without destroying the hard-hitting style that makes it so popular. Although it’s never good for concussions to occur more often, it’s even worse when they do happen and go unreported/untreated. The NFL might not be able to get rid of concussions in their game, but they can do more to ensure players are being evaluated when they show any signs of warning. It’s a great step forward to see more players self-reporting symptoms; this shows that more players are aware about the dangers of concussions, and they are taking the right steps to get treatment. Getting all players on board with this thought process would be the best way to improve players’ safety, and it should be emphasized by the NFL. There are some that aren’t on board right now, and this needs to change.
The league needs to focus on protecting players from themselves. This will likely make the concussion diagnosis number come out “worse”, but really in this case that is not a bad thing.
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Sources: nfl.com, bleacherreport.com, nydailynews.com, nytimes.com, cnn.com