The NFL says concussions were up in 2015.
The league released data today showing that a total of 271 concussions were diagnosed in 2015, the highest in the last four years. That includes 29 concussions in preseason practices, 52 concussions in preseason games, eight concussions in regular-season practices and 182 concussions in regular-season games.
What’s unclear is whether there were actually more concussions suffered last year, or simply more concussions diagnosed. The league noted that there were twice as many players evaluated for possible concussions in 2015 as in 2014, which suggests that medical staffs are being more vigilant about evaluating players who take hard hits. The league also says more players are self-reporting concussion symptoms. It’s possible that concussions were actually down in 2015 even as concussion diagnoses were up.
The league says that most of the concussions suffered last year — 92 of 182 — were caused by helmet-to-helmet hits. There were 29 concussions caused by a helmet hitting the playing surface, 23 caused by shoulder-to-helmet hits and 12 caused by knee-to-helmet hits.
At a time when the league is fighting a perception that football is a dangerous game, headlines saying that concussions are up aren’t exactly good news. But the increased scrutiny on head injuries leading to more diagnoses may represent a positive step for the long-term health of the sport and its players.