The NFL announced last month that players were diagnosed with 281 concussions in 2017, which represented a new high since the league started tracking total concussions six years ago and was a number that NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills called a “disappointment.”
During a press conference in Minneapolis on Thursday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said that there were also more than 400 concussion evaluations during the season. Smith had a different reaction to the rise of those numbers.
Smith said it was “a positive” that more players are being evaluated for concussions because it is a sign that the NFL and NFLPA are “smarter and better about delivering” the kind of medical care that led to the establishment of the concussion protocol in the first place.
NFLPA president Eric Winston said that they “will always look for ways to improve” the care and Smith also addressed the investigations into whether the protocol was followed correctly in the cases of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Texans quarterback Tom Savage and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. The NFL and NFLPA found that the Seahawks violated the protocol and issued a joint statement clearing the Texans, but offered different statements clearing the Panthers.
The NFL’s statement asked for “restraint among those who attempt to make medical diagnoses based upon the broadcast video alone” and the NFLPA did not take issue with those who suggested the protocol had not been applied properly.
“We need you guys to hold us accountable,” Smith said. “We love the fact that when people believe there’s been a violation that that’s a media issue. That’s the way, sometimes, that we force compliance.”
The players on the NFLPA executive committee said they also believe that the rise in concussion numbers is because players are reporting symptoms more often and that their teammates are speaking up when a player is hurt. Winston said that’s part of a “paradigm shift” regarding concussions that he believes is a positive for players around the league.