The NFL Just Released Its Concussion Count, And It’s Not Pretty

Head injuries are on the rise, and pro football is scrambling to figure out why.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly tackles Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald during the NFL NFC Championship game.Kent Smith/AP


With a little more than a week and a half before the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers face off in Super Bowl 50, the National Football League has released its latest injury data, and it isn’t pretty. Its players have suffered 271 reported concussions this season, a steep uptick from 2014-15, when there were 206, and the highest number in the last four years. The NFL also reports that there were 182 concussions during the most recent regular season; there were 115 in 2014.

Jeff Miller, the league’s senior vice president of health and safety policy, gave a number of possible explanations for the rise in concussion reports, such as increased screening for possible head injuries, an “unprecedented” level of players reporting signs of injury, and a rise in participation from spotters and independent neurologists on the sidelines. It’s also worth noting that, the number of helmet-to-helmet incidents on the field rose 58 percent between 2014 and 2015 after a two-year drop.

The league’s figures for the 2015 season differ slightly from PBS Frontline‘s Concussion Watch project, which bases its data on the NFL’s weekly injury reports. Frontline found that there were 199 concussions sustained this year, compared to the NFL’s 182. (Frontline‘s data does not include the preseason.) Cornerbacks suffered the most this year, with 41 reported concussions, while wide receivers and linebackers bore the next highest number of injuries, according to Frontline.

This latest injury report comes just as doctors discovered posthumously that Tyler Sash, a 27-year-old former safety for the New York Giants who died of an accidental drug overdose in September, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a debilitating brain disease. Cases so severe are rarely seen in a person his age. The New York Times reported on Tuesday Sash sustained at least five concussions throughout his playing career.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.