NFL Season Is Upon Us: what did preseason tell us about concussions?

Tomorrow night the guilty pleasure of many of us, the National Football League, will begin.  Whether you are rooting for a certain team (Denver Broncos) or player or have fantasy football implications the next six months becomes an investment for many of us.  I love football and will continue to love the sport, however I do feel that some changes need to be made – most importantly at the lower levels where our children and grandchildren play.

The Concussion Blog was the first to attempt to track concussions in the NFL beginning in 2010; we are not an official source nor do we have the capacity to have the actual/internal numbers.  However, with the various outlets and search engines we have been able to catalog a good portion of the brain injuries in the league.  Many have jumped on board to also document the injuries (looking at @nflconcussions) which has been a good resource as well.  We do not publicize our list, but you can follow them and get the names as he/she finds them they will be close by the end of the year.

Accountability, that is the primary reason for doing this task; professional players are a different animal when it comes to playing with any injury, let alone a concussion.  Gaining an overall picture of the numbers of concussion at the highest level (see most paid attention to) it is hopeful we can gain an understanding of the true epidemic.  Although a national clearing house of sport related concussions would be awesome, it is very difficult with millions playing and much fewer understanding and reporting the injury correctly.

The secondary reason is for observational data that can possibly be researched for underlying issues or things we don’t often see on raw numbers.

All of that being said we should be posting a number and stat update weekly based upon injuries found.  They will look something like this.  We have also been keeping track of preseason concussions the past two years and we are ready to release our stats for 2012.  The first question on most people’s mind is: were there more or less?

In terms of raw numbers the answer is less: 43 this year as opposed to 46 last year.  Now let us look at the breakdown of these concussions – numbers from 2011 and 2010 will appear in ()’s, ex total preseason concussions – 48 (46/8).  Yes we only found 8 preseason concussions in 2010, this was before the “full court press” of the media and people like me.  One very interesting note on the numbers: there were 38 reported concussions from the beginning of camp through the second preseason game, and only FIVE after that period.

Here we go;

  • Offensive – 24 (28/4)
    • QB – 0 (2/0)
    • RB – 7 (11/2)
    • TE – 7 (3/1)
    • WR – 5 (7/1)
    • OL – 7 (5/0)
  • Defensive – 19 (18/4)
    • DL – 6 (4/0)
    • LB – 4 (7/2)
    • DB – 12 (7/2)
  • Team Reports
    • ARI – 0 (0/0)
    • ATL – 3 (2/0)
    • BAL – 1 (1/0)
    • BUF – 0 (3/0)
    • CAR – 4 (2/0)
    • CHI – 1 (2/0)
    • CIN – 3 (0/1)
    • CLE – 1 (2/1)
    • DAL – 2 (2/1)
    • DEN – 2 (1/0)
    • DET – 2 (1/0)
    • GB – 5 (3/1)
    • HOU – 1 (5/1)
    • IND – 1 (0/1)
    • JAX – 4 (4/0)
    • KC – 1 (1/0)
    • MIA – 0 (0/0)
    • MIN – 3 (2/0)
    • NE – 1 (2/0)
    • NO – 0 (0/0)
    • NYG – 0 (1/0)
    • NYJ – 3 (2/0)
    • OAK – 1 (2/1)
    • PHI – 3 (0/0)
    • PIT – 1 (1/0)
    • SD – 1 (1/0)
    • SEA – 1 (1/1)
    • SF – 0 (0/0)
    • STL – 0 (3/0)
    • TB – 1 (0/0)
    • TEN – 2 (0/0)
    • WAS – 0 (3/0)

As we can clearly see, the defensive back positions (CB, S) are the highest reporting; this is also true of the past few regular seasons.  We have hypothesized many times about this.  I believe that the increased speed with collisions are a major factor to this.  It also creates an important note about concussions as well; the research has told us that the unanticipated hits are of the most concern, but most DB’s are making the hits.  This creates an issue with that research.  It could also be that some of the DB’s, who are “smaller” are hitting larger players, the mass portion of force.

Offensively the TE and OL positions lead the way (comparably the past few seasons it has been them plus the WR sharing the concussion load on offense).  The hypothesis behind this is the TE and OL have subclinical hits all game long while blocking (and leading with head) and finally get a shot that makes the injury clinical.  Taking on full speed blitzers while standing “still” also make those positions predisposed to concussive forces.

Regardless of how you view, it seems that the concussions may have hit the “high water” mark last season; a combination of awareness and proper reporting could have given us a baseline.  With rule changes and points of emphasis the hope is that the number will level out over the next few years.  Ten concussions per week in the NFL is too many, in my opinion, and an attainable goal of eight per week would be better (34 less concussions over the year).

Here is to hoping the season goes the way you all want it.  See you next week.

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