NFL concussions show sharp drop after rule changes

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Concussions in the NFL dropped by nearly 30 percent this season in the wake of rule changes designed to make the game safer, the league confirmed on Thursday.

Figures reported on the NFL's website showed that the number of diagnosed concussion cases in regular season games fell from 190 in 2017 to 135 in 2018, a 29 percent decrease.

With concussions from pre-season games included, the number dropped from 281 in 2017 to 214 in 2018.

The sharp drop in concussions comes after the NFL introduced new rules this year, making it illegal for players to initiate contact with the helmet when tackling or being tackled.

The league also tweaked rules relating to kick offs and punt returns, with the goal of reducing the number of high-speed collisions.

The NFL were cautious, however, on whether the fall-off in concussion numbers could be definitively attributed to the rule changes.

"We're certainly pleased with the progress on concussion reduction," Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president for health and safety, said. "There is a lot more work to do."

NFL medical officials will sift through the data gleaned from the 2018 season in the coming weeks to attempt to pinpoint causes for the reduced number.

The NFL meanwhile has continued to encourage more advanced helmets, with certain kinds set to be phased out altogether as of next season.

League officials also carry out more concussion evaluations on the sidelines than ever before.

This year 538 players were evaluated for concussion although 75 percent of those cases came back without diagnosis of concussion.

"We continue to emphasize an extremely conservative approach," said Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer.

"If they even suspect someone is concussed, we screen that player."

The NFL has faced growing scrutiny in recent years over the issue of concussions and head trauma in the sport.

In 2015, the league agreed to a $1 billion settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits by former players suffering from neurological problems.