The NFL’s plan to fine players into compliance when it comes to helmet-to-helmet hits may be working.
And the additional measures the league has taken — including independent neurologists on the sidelines and unaffiliated trainers in the press box watching for potential concussions — aren’t hurting, either.
According to the Associated Press, the league’s health and safety report said concussions were down 13 percent from the previous year, with concussions from helmet-to-helmet contact down 23 percent.
The new rules sparked some concern among players that forcing them lower would result in more leg injuries, but the league said there were fewer ACL injuries than the previous year, with MCL injuries at the same level.
Those are one-year-numbers, but the league’s hoping it’s a valuable trend.
“That is an important concern and one that we took a look at, and in this one year it had no effect whatsoever. … We were gratified by that,” Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety said. “Just because the head-to-head contact is coming out you’re not increasing injuries elsewhere. Those are things we’ll continue to watch.”
Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, the co-chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee, was most gratified to see head injuries being treated more seriously. He pointed to an incident at a preseason game when an assistant coach sought out a doctor on the sideline to ask about a player that was displaying concussion-like symptoms.
“Although he was fine, we kept him out for 15 minutes doing the exams, and we watched him and we examined him again,” Ellenbogen said. “I mean, could you imagine a position coach, he asked three times, ‘Is the guy OK? What do you think?’ You can go anywhere in the country and you can talk about concussions now. Probably five years ago they go, ‘What is a concussion?’ Now everybody is in tune. The culture has changed.”
That’s good news for everyone involved in the game, and the hope is that the numbers continue in their current direction, and aren’t a short-term reaction to increased financial penalties.