With so much scrutiny on the NFL’s every decision, it makes sense that the league would be in a rush to share their annual Health and Safety report which says concussions decreased overall during the 2013 season. The report says concussions are down 13-percent from the previous year and the number of concussions coming from helmet-to-helmet contact – which the league is working to prevent – was down 23 percent.
These numbers may be a sign of a sea change in the NFL as 2013 was also the first to include independent neurologists on the sidelines and unaffiliated athletic trainers watching for injuries from the press box. The league also instituted stricter play rules to prevent brain injuries.
“That’s not success, but that’s a nice move in the right direction,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety. “When you talk about culture change and you look at that 23 percent number, there is something going on that is relevant. And we would want to eliminate more of those helmet-to-helmet hits and we will. And we want players to react to change the way players play the game to avoid that kind of incident. And we will continue to push that, but we’re very well aware that the progress that we’ve made, while good, indicates there is more work to be done, too, and we’ll continue to pursue that.”
Only time will tell if this study holds up. While I want to believe the numbers being reported, the NFL also has some clear motivation to paint the prettiest picture possible. It is simply difficult to trust any study that is operated by the same institution being examined. Nonetheless, hopefully future independent reviews and studies show the football is really making strides in cutting brain injuries out of the sport.