While concussions rose during the 2022 NFL season, not all injury news was bad as the league released injury data from the preseason and regular season on Friday.
While concussions were up 18 percent to 149 this season, compared to 126 last season, overall injuries were down 5.6 percent in 2022. This year’s concussion numbers were also 14 percent higher than the three-year average of 130 from 2018-20.
One reason for the higher numbers, though, could be that the NFL has made identifying head injuries an even bigger priority than ever.
Identifying head injuries during games and resting those players in subsequent weeks has been a focal point, especially after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had multiple head injuries during the regular season.
Head injuries in quarterbacks were also higher than expected this past season, NFL Network reported.
“We continue to become more cautious and conservative in our evaluation and diagnosis of concussions,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told ESPN. “That’s not just an opinion. That’s backed up by the data.”
According to the ESPN report, team medical staffs performed an average of 1.6 concussion evaluations per game, with twice as many medical timeouts by independent spotters to identify potential head injuries during games than in the prior season.
The league also reported fewer preseason head injuries. While most teams are now playing just three preseason games, an additional reason for the lower numbers was the use of a protective “Guardian Cap” mandated to be worn over the helmets of select position groups.
Leg injuries also dropped 25 percent during training camp in 2022, although lower-extremity injuries rose for the first five weeks of the regular season. Overall, injuries were down 14 percent in the preseason.
Aside from concussions, another concern is the number of injuries on kickoff and punt returns.
According to NFL Network, one out of every five concussions occurred on a kickoff or punt return, while 20 percent of ACL injuries occurred during special teams play.
While research and development has been done on a safer helmet for offensive and defensive lineman, ESPN reported that a helmet designed to specifically help quarterbacks also is in the works.