2011 Concussion Report – End of Regular Season

The Concussion Blog Original, NFL Concussion Report, is a weekly compiling of the reported head injuries in the National Football League.  Concussions are added to the list each week from multiple sources to give you the reader a picture of what is happening on the field.  Each week we will bring you the information along with relevant statistics.  If we have missed a concussion or put one on here erroneously, let us know (we will also be using Fink’s Rule to classify a concussion/head injury).

The 2011 NFL season had a lot of different story lines; from Tebow to Green Bay’s run to San Francisco coming from nowhere.  However the biggest story, as far as we are concerned, was the concussion issue.  Looking back at last year we posted our final numbers for 2010 and some thoughts going forward.

Of the suggestions proposed in the wrap-up last year the only issue addressed (kind of) was the awareness component.  This is actually not measurable, however with the increase in the number of concussions this year I would confidently say that it was better.  As for the NFL Concussion database, we don’t know, hopefully that did occur (or perhaps this is their database).  The other proposal of having different helmets on different positions; that was a stretch to get done, but it still stands true, as some positions are more likely to sustain a concussion.  The NFL did add some components for safety: officials on the look out and an athletic trainer in the press box to find concussions that may be missed.

There are some trends that remain the same after last year: defensive backs are the position with the most concussions and offensive lineman saw a huge jump in concussions as the season wore on.  The DB issue is one of speed and improper tackling technique, where as the offensive lineman cases are a little disconcerting.  Research and evidence shows us that there is a compiling effect of traumatic forces to the brain.  The sub-concussive hits can be just as dangerous over a long period of time, and they eventually manifest themselves as concussions or worse as the players age.  There were actually more concussions for the offensive lineman over all and the reporting seemed to be consistent all year (late spike), what was not as evident was the number of OL losing the season due to concussions.

As we look at the following statistics remember these numbers are for regular season action only.  They do not include the 46 preseason concussions found, nor any of the post season concussions.  After this first set of numbers we will include the preseason numbers for comparison to last year.

On to the stats through Week 17 (FINAL NUMBERS);

  • 171 Concussions/head injuries (159 – 2010)
  • 10.05 Concussions/week (9.35 – 2010)
  • 0.67 Concussions/game (0.62 – 2010)
  • 11.88% InR (11.04 – 2010)
  • 10.08% EInR (9.38 – 2010)
  • 89 Offensive – 82 Defense
  • Positionally Speaking
    • QB – 7, RB – 16, TE – 20, WR – 22, OL – 24, DL – 16, LB – 20, DB – 46
  • Team Breakdown
    • OAK – 11
    • BAL, CLE – 10
    • CAR, MIN, SEA – 9
    • DET, STL – 8
    • PHI, TEN – 7
    • DEN, GB, IND, SD, SF – 6
    • ATL, JAX, NE, NYG, TB – 5
    • KC, NYJ, PIT – 4
    • ARI, CHI, NO, – 3
    • DAL, MIA, WAS – 2
    • BUF – 1
    • CIN, HOU – 0

Our definition of Incidence Rate (InR) is projected concussions/45 players taking the field per team per game, our definition of Epidemiological Incidence Rate (EInR) is projected concussions/53 man roster per team.


The following numbers are all concussions from preseason through the regular season (217), comparing to last year (2010 in parenthesis);

  • 217 Total (167)
  • 12 Players to IR (12)
  • Concussions per Team
    • 0 = Cincinnati (TB)
    • 1 = NONE (SD)
    • 2 = Miami (HOU, BUF)
    • 3 = New Orleans, Arizona (MIA, NYJ, ATL, CHI, CIN, DEN)
    • 4 = Buffalo, Dallas (SF, KC, NYG)
    • 5 = Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington (TEN, NE, JAX, GB)
    • 6 = Indianapolis, Jets, San Francisco (IND, ARI, WAS, NO)
    • 7 = Atlanta, Denver, New England, Philadelphia, San Diego, Tennessee (DAL, PIT)
    • 9 = Detroit, Green Bay, Jacksonville (CLE)
    • 10 = Seattle (CAR)
    • 11 = Baltimore, Carolina, Minnesota, St. Louis (NONE)
    • 12 = Cleveland
    • 13 = Oakland
  • Concussions by “general” Position
    • QB = 9 (11)
    • RB = 27 (12)
    • TE = 23 (15)
    • WR = 29 (28)
    • OL = 29 (15)
      • Offense = 117 – 53.9% (81 – 48.5%)
    • DL = 20 (17)
    • LB = 27 (25)
    • DB = 53 (44)
      • Defense = 100 – 46.1% (86 – 51.5%)

Other notes: We did find 7 concussions due to special teams, however that is an incomplete number…  That being said there was only 2 on kickoffs, giving credence to the new KO rule…  Two injuries were classified as concussions due to the Fink Rule: James Harrison and Delanie Walker…  18 players sustained at least two concussions this year…  Ben Watson had three separate listings…  We identified 168 helmets of the 217 players…  In a random helmet sample based on TV observation the helmet breakdown was as follows: 62.33% Riddell, 36.30% Schutt, 1.37% Others (Xenith, Adams and Rawlings)…  Helmet break down of concussions: Riddell 63.98%, Schutt 36.02, Others 0%…



The 200+ concussions should not come as a surprise, as we told you to expect that back in the preseason, the main reason being the better reporting of the issue.  Players seemed to capitulate, slightly, to the injury as the season wore on, yet there is still the stigma present in the game.  It surely would be nice to see the NFL take the route the NHL seems to be taking, at least it is trickling down to the adolescent levels.  There are still issues with the reporting of the injury for what ever reason, as evident with some teams.  For example of the 384 found concussions the past two years Cincinnati has only reported THREE or 0.78% of all concussions, Tampa Bay, Houston and Buffalo are not much better, if the injury was truly random then each team should be reporting about 12 a year.  There are teams that do deserve a ton of credit for being what I believe to be forthright with concussions: Oakland, Cleveland, Carolina, Minnesota, Baltimore and St. Louis.  Those teams have been at the top the last two years: 21, 21, 21, 19, 19, 19 respectively, comprising 31.25% of all the concussions the last two years.  Those teams that have the higher reporting numbers seem to be more near the actual number than those at the bottom.

The NFL is making an effort, although a reactive one, to take this issue seriously if they want to make some serious head way and lessen the cost of concussions to the owners then there are some suggestions I can make;

  1. Create a truly independent think tank.  This think tank should be composed of various types of people and ones that are not concerned about what they find or say.  Just like taking a band-aid off, this group would be good at getting the necessary information and providing recommendations no matter how critical or imposing they may seem.  Their information should be transparent and thorough.  I believe this group should be composed of the following 20 people: 4 independent researchers, 2 independent neuropsychologists, 2 independent physicians, 2 psychologists, 1 active NFL athletic trainer, 1 college athletic trainer, 1 high school athletic trainer, 2 media personalities, 2 active NFL players, 2 former NFL players, 1 current NFL Head Neck & Spine Committee member.
  2. Compile and publish a concussion database for NFL injuries that includes at the least: total number of career concussions, time missed.
  3. Again look for the proper helmet for the position, let alone get rid of all helmets that are technologically older than 15 years.  This would mean the removal of the old model Riddell, Shutt and Adams.
  4. Use the league and players to promote the proper management of concussions, including full rest until asymptomatic then a graded stepwise recovery.  This may be different from professional players but make that clear, adolescent brains are different from that of the mature adult.
  5. Promote less hitting in practice and proper tackling technique (don’t use James Harrison).  Stop using the top or crown of the helmet as the primary point of contact.
  6. Enforce all rules on the books that deal with helmet contact.  Remember that helmets were made for and instituted for protection not for weaponry.  The use of the helmet as a weapon has contributed to an increase of concussions, if players were to use their face mask instead of the crown of the helmet I would hazard a guess that concussions would decrease.

We will continue to track what concussions we can find in the post season.  It is rather difficult, but those numbers will be included after the Super Bowl for an over all total for 2011.

I would like to thank everyone that has helped in the data collection and crunching of stats.  Although we feel this is a VERY GOOD data set, it is far from 100% correct there are still limitations.  Again, we do think this is the most comprehensive and correct number associated with concussions in the NFL at this time.

3 thoughts on “2011 Concussion Report – End of Regular Season

  1. Travis March 25, 2012 / 13:49

    It is pretty suspect that HOUSTON had 2 concussion in one game in the preseason, but none in any other games and CIN had no concussions all year. I think you are correct when you say that there should be more like 12 per team, which would about double the total number of concussions. Concussions from practices and training camp I am sure are drastically under-reported.

    Mike Vick had a concussion against ATL and two weeks later against SF he hit his head when sacked and on the sidelines he appeared to be holding his head like he had a really bad headache. I think that he never really recovered from that Concussion he had against ATL for at least a month, based on his play

  2. Travis March 25, 2012 / 13:52

    The helmet issue is one that needs to be addressed by the NFL. Many players still wear the old Riddell helmets and use only a single strap-type chinstrap. Studies show that having double chinstraps is much safer. QBs such as Aaron Rodgers wear the single chinstrap and older style helmet. It is surprising that players who have concussions won’t change their helmets to the newer styles.

  3. David S January 27, 2013 / 08:14

    Based on your data it seems clear that most of the concussions occur in the secondary. Offensive and defensive linemen have the lowest rates of concussions while RB, TE, WR, and DBs have the highest rates of concussion. Do you agree? If so, could we focus on changes in game play associated hits in the secondary?

    One thing I see as unnecessary in the game are big hits on receivers or ball carriers in the open field when the defender doesn’t make an effort to wrap up. When defenders try to separate the ball from ball-carrier by impact alone, it not only results in concussions, but it also is probably bad defense. How many times have we seen a defender lay a big hit on a ball-carrier who merely bounces off and keeps on running? I think we could change the rule so that hitting without trying to wrap up, or going for the ball, is illegal.

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