The NFL says the number of concussions in games and practices dropped 23.8 percent in 2018. According to figures the league released Thursday, there were a combined 214 recorded concussions in 2018 during the preseason and regular season, compared to a record-high 281 in 2017. The NFL’s concussion reduction strategy, developed in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, included three prongs: intervening in early training camp practices, prohibiting underperforming helmet models, and instituting a series of rule changes rooted in biomechanical research. Most of the 2018 progress can be attributed to a 29 percent drop in concussions during preseason and regular-season games.
The new helmet policy, which produced ratings based on performance in independent laboratories, prompted one-third of NFL players to change models for 2018. The percentage of players wearing one of the 17 top-performing helmets rose from 41 percent in 2017 to 74 percent in 2018. Use of helmets that were among the lowest-performing tier dropped from 17 percent to 2 percent; their use will be eliminated entirely in 2019 with the expiration of a one-year grandfather clause. Results of two significant rule changes are not yet clear, Miller said. Although the league banned players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact on opponents, officials only rarely enforced the foul. The same applies to the kickoff, which the competition committee redesigned after research showed it was five times as likely to cause a concussion in 2017 as running or passing plays. There were no concussions on kickoffs during the preseason, and Miller said he is “optimistic” that it was a safer play during the regular season, but the final analysis is not complete.