NFL’s chief medical officer declares “call to action” after rise in concussions

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The NFL’s chief medical officer said this week that last year’s increase to 281 reported concussions was a “call to action,” and that an increase in players self-reporting concussions shouldn’t be viewed as a positive step on its own.

Dr. Allen Sills spoke to the league’s head, neck, and spine committee in Indianapolis, and urged them to continue to work to force the number lower.

“It’s not OK to simply stand behind that and say, ‘Well, the numbers are going up because we’re doing a better job,'” Sills told the group, via Kevin Seifert of “I think to me this is really a call to action to see what we can do to drive it down.”

The 281 last season was up from 250 in 2016, and 47 percent of the concussions last year were self-reported.

Sills outlined three paths the league hopes will bring the numbers of total concussions down, including the use of safer helmets, increased emphasis on preseason concussions by pointing out warning signs to teams, and working with football operations to adapt the style of play.

Even as the league has tried to fine the problem away, too many players have too many old habits in regards to hitting with or at heads.

10 responses to “NFL’s chief medical officer declares “call to action” after rise in concussions

  1. There has not been a rise in concussions, only a rise in diagnosis of such. Concussions are being prevented. Check USA sports data and leading equipment analysis. Such helmets at xeneth and others are improving the safety of our game. Not only is equipment evolving, the game is too. Watch a dick butkus highlight tape. The game is a much safer game.

  2. The single biggest piece to fix this is the leading with the head that many tacklers still do, along with targeting the head. That starts at Pop Warner football, but needs to be coached out of players at all levels. Ryan Shazier is an unfortunate example of tackling by leading with the crown of the helmet. He had been fined, penalized, etc. but his instincts are to lead with the helmet and that has to be coached out of the game starting at a young age.

    It would be interesting to know how many concussions are from helmet to helmet, shoulder to helmet, forearm to helmet, leading with the head when tackling, and head bouncing off of the turf. If you can figure out how many of each make up the 281 you can fix certain ones, but others will always be part of the game.

  3. This has become way too much of an issue. If guys dont want to get concussions (I surely wouldnt) then they simply shouldnt play football. If you play football you are most likely going to get concussed at some point.

  4. Play in the secondary is too wide open and fast. Permit more contact in the secondary like years ago. Guys are now turning down the big head hits that they can avoid, now the goal should be to cut down on the big head hits guys have trouble avoiding. I doubt the NFL will take this step as it will cut into scoring which they fear will cut into revenue. The revenue obviously trumps any safety related issues.

  5. What is a good level of concussions in football? What’s a good level of broken legs and ACL tears in football?

    It’s never going to be zero. It’s nowhere close to zero even in a non-contact sport like baseball.

    There is still an inherent risk to playing contact sports that will never go away, like there is inherent risk to be a downhill skier or a UFC fighter. It’s part of it. I think we are beyond the initial problem where players were being sent back into the game with concussions and not being treated properly. New football players need to understand they are putting their body (including their head) at risk by playing the sport and what the long term effects could be.

    Sure, keep making the game as safe as possible, but it’s still a sport where every player will have a season ending injury at least once in their career.

    There will always be people that want to play this game. People are willing to take the risks for the thrill of the sport.

  6. The article states how many concussions in 2016 vs. 2017, and the percentage that were self-reported in 2017; however, without the number self-reported in 2016, it’s impossible to determine the exact correlation.

  7. Maybe the need to enforce the rules they already have? every game you players “launching” that never get called and half the helmet to helmets get called. Officiating seems to be the bulk of the problem.

  8. Even as the league has tried to fine the problem away, too many players have too many old habits in regards to hitting with or at heads.

    I wince on far too many tackles when watching football. Too many tacklers lead with their heads and too many guys dive in on tackles at the last second “to be in on the play”.

    Yes – injuries, including concussions, are part of football. I feel like too many fans have a “the players know what they’re getting themselves into” attitude, which seems to relate to how much money the players earn.

    The players earn a lot of money because the NFL brings in a lot of money – how much they get paid shouldn’t matter to anyone. They earn that pay with their skills & if you or I could do it, we would too. Player safety should always be the top concern – the NFL pays lip service to this, but really they (ownership) don’t care as long as revenues are good.

  9. Can you get De Smith and the NFLPA ignoring these issues over the last 7 years? Why the interest now? Doesn’t care about health or safety. Unless he gets to sue the NFL and lose badly, he seems to simply hide from the press and public.

    He even got a 5 year deal. So when the NFLPA is destroyed in the 2021 CBA, De will get 2 years severance after he finally gets fired. Another 10 year deal of PA members will be earning less than MLS players.

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