The NFL says players were diagnosed with concussions a total of 281 times in 2017, which is the most the league has seen since it began tracking concussions consistently across the league six years ago.
The major increase in concussions came in practices, not in games. There were 45 concussions in practices in the preseason and 11 concussions in practices in the regular season. Both of those totals are the most ever seen by the league. There are always more concussions in preseason practices than in regular season practices because there is much more contact in preseason practices than in regular season practices.
In games, there were 46 concussions in the preseason and 179 concussions in the regular season. Both of those numbers represent increases over 2016, but neither represented an all-time high.
“Certainly we’re disappointed that the concussion numbers are up. It’s something that challenges us to roll up our sleeves and work hard to see that number come down,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer. “We take this as a challenge because we’re not going to be satisfied until we drive that number much lower.”
The question is whether that top number of 281 means there were actually more concussions suffered by players, or whether diagnostic efforts have improved. The league indicated that players are self-reporting concussion symptoms more often, which may indicate the latter — and which is good news, even if an increase in concussions is not good news.