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NFL concussion numbers drop in 2013

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 10:33 p.m.

NEW YORK — NFL concussions were down 13 percent overall this season and 23 percent for those caused by helmet-to-helmet hits, according to league-supplied data — a positive trend both the league and its players union hope will continue.

Based on information provided by team physicians, the NFL said Thursday there were 228 concussions, a number that nearly matches that of an independent website that also tracks them. There were 261 concussions in 2012 and 252 in 2011. Helmet-to-helmet concussions were down to 90, compared to 117 in 2012.

“We're pleased with the data, unquestionably, as it relates to concussions, but there's still more to do,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL vice president for health and safety. “We hope for this trend to continue. The game can be safer.”

Miller credited the shift to “rules changes, culture changes, enforcement of the rules and the elimination over time of dangerous techniques.”

So, to the players union, was the league a safer place to play in 2013?

“‘Safer' is going to include a lot more than concussions,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told the Tribune-Review. “To me, questions of whether it's safer is whether we're doing a better job of providing our players with informed consent. Last year, we had team doctors telling players to look up a drug on Wikipedia in order to make a decision whether or not the drug is doing what it is supposed to.

“If a doctor's referring a patient to Wikipedia, I think that's less safe. The good news is I didn't hear anything about that this year. We look at safety, and compliance incrementally, on an issue-by-issue basis. We conducted an investigation in Tampa on MRSA and we've looked at a number of issues across the league. So, we don't really make sweeping decisions about whether it's safer this year or not.”

The union does not independently audit the league's concussion count, Smith said.

Miller also said the most serious knee injuries, to the ACL and MCL, were about the same as in 2012. There were 57 ACL injuries, down six from 2012, and 133 MCL injuries, up one from the previous season. The league also said there is no increase in injuries during Thursday night games, compared to Sunday and Monday games, although players believe there is more injury risk in games played after only three days' rest.

Smith also said the union and the league are in “98 percent agreement” on HGH testing, with the union favoring an independent arbitrator to settle disagreements rather than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. An example might be a player who has not tested positive but is suspended based on evidence, such as the Alex Rodriguez punishment in Major League Baseball.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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