Official Study of NFL Concussions

It appears that there is an official study on concussions and injuries in the NFL.  This data came from the internal injury surveillance  of the league and is uncertain who sponsored it, however, this is our first chance to see “accurate” numbers relating to concussions in the league.  Edgeworth Economics did the study and was told that there were 266 concussions in 2011 (we found 217) and 270 concussions in 2010 (182) showing a slight overall decline;

The number of reported concussions had been on the rise since 2006.

“As an economist and a statistician, I can’t tell you whether that’s due to increased recognition of concussions versus an increased incidence of them,” David said. “It’s probably both. But nonetheless, you see a pretty significant (trend) over the last five years, roughly. However, in 2011, we saw a decrease — a slight decrease in the total number of concussions, the first time that’s happened in several years. And that is entirely due to a reduced number of concussions during kickoffs.”

The purpose of the study was to determine the effectiveness of the kickoff rule change.  As we noted here there was a decline in concussions on the kick off last year – although we could only discover single digits – where as the study had much more information;

There were 266 overall concussions reported in 2011, a decrease from the 270 reported in 2010. The number of concussions that occurred on kickoffs dropped from 35 in 2010 to 20 last season.

Yes, the kickoff rule change helped and looks like it helped the overall number as well.  We have opined here that 2011 could be the “high water” mark for concussions in the NFL.  We also have been extremely critical of the NFL for “hiding” their numbers, it appears that is changing.  It will also be very interesting to see if the reduced contact days also drives that number down.

It is good to see the league “opening the books” on the concussion injury, although it is curious it comes at a time when there is a plateau or decline.  I guess it is better late than never.  With these changes and decline we should see a trickle down effect as college and high school will be more accepting of “game” changes.


19 thoughts on “Official Study of NFL Concussions

  1. Edna Hyland August 8, 2012 / 08:51

    How about Dynavisiion testing to help eliminate collisions that lead to concussions?

  2. Dr. Michael Gruttadauria August 8, 2012 / 08:53

    This is great news for football across the board. The kickoff change has worked and maybe other changes can follow. Purists will say that the sport is being changed in a bad way, but I feel it needs to happen.

  3. joe bloggs August 8, 2012 / 12:39

    Well done. TCB is followed by the NFL and NFLPA and it could no longer keep everyone especially the players in the dark.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant – Louis Brandeis.

  4. stevie777587 August 14, 2012 / 08:03

    Still in the dark, no mention of which team received the most concussions only caused them. One Harvard expert on cranial facial/temporo mandibular traua cites the N.E. Patriots in peer reviewed data as having the least annually, due to a technological advantage in pre treating those with Temporal mandibular joint dysfunction. These “official” NFL stats should show which team of the 32 is using the most effective methods in reducing, preventing concussion related “events” and symptoms. U.S. Army has appropriated funds to properly investigate this theory.

  5. joe bloggs August 14, 2012 / 09:14

    Not in the dark. The data provided by the NFL is unreliable see Edgeworth Economics AP report. Is this one Harvard expert owner or employee of the company you shill for? Injuries suffered by soldiers are different than sports concussions. So where is the peer-reviewed Journal article? Does it exist? Or is this another sham like some many other so-called concussion prevention technologies.

    The US Army has allocated funds for other useless projects for concussions ranging from Reike, yoga and various other alt-med alt-science nonsense. In ten years the military has financed and failed in every project to analyze and treat concussion. They could not hit water if they fell out of boat.

    No matter how many times you change your identity the answer is the same; you have no science.

    • stevie777587 August 14, 2012 / 12:33

      Traumatic brain injury (TBI), often caused by shock waves from blasts, has been called the “signature wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Commonly, the deleterious effects on the blast are compounded by the extra forces transmitted to the skull from the jaw through the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). In contact sports, it has been shown that mouth guards can be effective in reducing concussions and mild TBI. This proposal describes how a Massachusetts company., in collaboration with Dr. Robert Cantu of Boston University Medical Center and Emerson Hospital, a world-renowned authority on neurology and sports medicine, will develop an appliance to mitigate concussive forces associated with high-energy blasts. In Phase I, potential materials and relevant existing devices, particularly athletic mouth guards, will be researched for their application to a product that could be used by the military. Initial design concepts will be worked out based on this research.

      • joe bloggs August 14, 2012 / 13:19

        First, I am surprised Cantu would endorse any dental appliance since he has been clear that no evidence exists to support the claims you are making. Perhaps Dustin can ask Bob, if this is true.

        The company received a SBIR research grant (usually 100K) for figuring out if current mouth guards or new materials could be used to mitigate blast concussions. Notice: SBIR asserts the mouth guards have no utility in sports concussion. So if they receive a phase II, we might have data in three years.

        Since we are leaving Afghanistan in 2014, I have grave doubts we will have any relevant blast data. I doubt sheep, pigs, or mice would be able to model the protective qualities of a mouth guard so we will go no where.

    • joe bloggs August 14, 2012 / 10:28

      Why don’t you post your response publicly? If you have articles, show them.

      I have seen nothing from an independent source that alters my opinion.

  6. stevie777587 August 14, 2012 / 16:18

    Yeah, let’s not even look at it. Dr. Cantu may be on to some great research initiative for the military that the NFL has overlooked or swept under the carpet. His statements are clear, “no research has been done to date that proves mouth guards prevent concussion”, He is not saying they don’t help reduce concussion, he is just saying, in my opinion, the properly designed study has yet to be done. Crash test dummies used by NFL research are not the correct way to investigate jaw related trauma in humans, the temporo/mandibular region is far to complex to recreate. Until this research can be designed properly, double blind in humans, mouth guard studies will consistently show inconsistent data.
    So let’s just forget about investigating it.

    • Joe Bloggs August 14, 2012 / 16:24

      I did not say that. I said, “don’t sell before you have statistically valid data.” Good luck.

      • stevie777587 August 14, 2012 / 16:56

        Now you see the catch 22. If the NFL has failed to properly design a study to validate the data or purposely failed for “other” reasons, then how do you sell the product?

    • joe bloggs August 14, 2012 / 18:21

      Why rely of the NFL or DoD? Do what the rest of the research world does: raise some money, pay a contract research organization to test the hypothesis. If it works, fine. If it does not, case closed.

      This is not a catch-22. It is how science is conducted (I know many projects promoted by NFL and DoD insiders skipped this step but the chickens are coming home to roost). I am sorry you want others to do your work, but promoting products without independent verifiable and validated data that may not work to children, professional athletes and service members is not appropriate.

      • stevie777587 August 14, 2012 / 20:17

        What are your qualifications to make such a statement?

  7. Seems ALL Joe is requesting is scientific research data that has been adequately replicated…and free from conflicts of interest.

    From my perspective, Joe’s qualifications do not seem to be the issue…he is merely asking for credible, documented, research-based evidence…

    Furthermore, it seems his ability to critically think and raise core research questions / concerns is being subtlely ‘attacked’ via “What are his qualifications?” after he merely requested that you share credible data to support your opinions.

    It is critical that if accurate concussion knowledge is to be obtained…it is essential that the sport-related concussion knowledge advance from so-called and self-proclaimed “experts…” who have muddied the waters with apparent conflicts of interests…to valid, reliable and replicated research data.

    Accurate knowledge of sport-related concussion history easily reveals the existence of COIs…and below are several brief examples of COIs permeating and / or potentially adversely impacting the SRC field:


    excerpts are from Brady (2004) :

    It seems imperative that full and complete disclosure of financial and all other secondary gains discussed above be provided in writing by each member of the various sports- related concussion research teams and expert panels. Examples of specific research teams and committees include, but are not limited to, NFL- and NCAA-sponsored and funded research and expert committees, and designated concussion management committees such as the Colorado Medical Society, the 1997 Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology, and the Vienna Conference Concussion Committee. A complete list of all members of the respective committees should also be included within the descriptive disclosure notice of financially and not-financially-related COIs. The adoption of these disclosure guidelines by sports concussion clinicians and researchers could serve as a proactive model for fostering complete and open disclosure of the nonmedical factors which may directly influence professional health care decisions.

    Acknowledged pressure exists to minimize sports injuries and “play through the pain” (Huizenga, 1994; Moore, 1982; personal communication, anonymous NFL football player, September 16, 2003). Therefore, it seems plausible and logical to assume that similar research and clinician biases related to adverse pressure to minimize concussion injuries may also be present in the concussion field. Statements such as “just a ding” and “had his bell rung” serve to verify this perspective as these phrases minimize, discount, or invalidate the adverse implications of sustaining a concussion.

    Recent support for the existence of sports-related clinician bias may be found in Kelly and O’Shanick’s (2003) discussion of the formulation of the 1997 AAN concussion management guidelines. The presenters shared that the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology–which devised these concussion management guidelines–included NFL team physicians. These team physicians reportedly influenced the committee’s decision that determined that a timeframe of 15 minutes was ample time for an athlete to “sit out” after sustaining an initial concussion. This recommended timeframe was reportedly

    not based on empirical evidence but was arbitrarily and directly related to the 15
    minute quarter of a football game, so that an athlete would be able to return to
    play in the same game he sustained the initial concussion, if the symptoms
    resolved” (Kelly & O ‘Shanick, 2003).

    A parallel concern pertaining to COIs being exhibited by members of expert panels and blue ribbon committees was recently voiced by a clinical professor of medicine at the SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital located in Syracuse, NY. Anton Joachimpillai (2004) stated that

    from his clinical perspective derived from almost 50 years of practicing medicine,
    expert panels and blue ribbon committee findings should be both cautiously
    accepted and critically reviewed as he has frequently found that committee
    members promulgate self serving, and thus biased interests (personal
    communication, March 9, 2004).

    Recently published NFL-sponsored research on concussion by Pellman et al (2004) may easily be construed as an example of perceived or potentially compromised and biased research. The glaring omission and failure to disclose various research members’ roles as NFL team physicians or other health care consultants, arguably may “violate the public trust and subsequent credibility of the investigators” (DeAngelis, Fontanarosa, & Flanagin, p. 89). The full and transparent disclosure of multiple relationships is considered essential for maintaining the credibility of the researchers, along with effectively addressing potential bias (DeAngelis et al., 2004).

    It has been advocated that independent reviewers and editors of research be devoid of COIs pertaining to the research being critiqued (Thomson, 1993; International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, 1999). The potential for COIs and a subsequent erosion of public trust seems quite apparent if proactive and clearly visible and stated disclosures of financial and nonfinancial ties are not consistently promulgated by concussion researchers, expert panel/committee members, and/or manuscript reviewers and editors.

    Therefore, just as specific sources and amounts of funding for drug-related research and other secondary interests need to be clearly enunciated (Lemmens et al., 1998), sources and amounts of funding for sports-related concussion research, multiple relationships, and other secondary gains should also be openly acknowledged and clearly described in all research presentations and corresponding journal articles.

    This is so that the audience/reader may become fully aware of possible health care provider biases that may have adversely impacted the research findings being reviewed. Such a perspective is similar to Krimsky and Rothenberg’s (1998) view that authors’ COIs should be shared with readers so that they may become aware of, and personally judge, the credibility of the article’s contents.

    • joe bloggs August 15, 2012 / 06:57

      I have been engaged in commercial scientific research and development for more 20 years. I have multiple degrees from leading universities. I have worked for multiple start-ups on the line and in the executive suite.

      Even a high school student with an interest in science or math would know that the scientific is the basis of pushing frontiers forward.

      • A Concerned Mom August 16, 2012 / 13:55

        Dr. Brady and Joe Bloggs,

        Thanks so much for commenting here, I must say I’ve learned a lot over the past few months.

        You may already know by now, but just in case you don’t, earlier today the FTC announced a settlement prohibiting a mouth-guard marketer from claiming mouthguards can reduce the risk of concussions because those claims are ….. not backed by adequate science.

  8. Tom Hendricks December 7, 2015 / 17:00

    I believe you’re attacking concussion prevention by “strengthening the football helmet” and various rule changes to slow down the rate of football concussions. Why isn’t someone pusuing making the outside of the helmet softer – so that the blow induced by bumping helmets isn’t met with a brick wall. With all the materials available, continue to make the inside better at cushuning
    any blow, but make the ouside incapable of delivering a blunt blow to the head. How many concussions occur from other than helmet induced blows? Put a rollof Charmin on their heads and let them have fun. If done right, and the lab should prove it, I’m bettting concussions from helmet induced blows goes away!

    Tom From Michigan

    • Dustin Fink December 7, 2015 / 18:22

      A lot of concussions are from impacts other than with helmets (ground, body parts, etc.). Padding the outside does nothing for the “sloshing” of the brain inside the skull due to forces. Also, rotational forces are a huge contributor to concussion…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s