NFL concussions rose by 10 in 2019 despite safety moves

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, at bottom taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Seattle's Jadeveon Clowney in a playoff game, was among the NFL players who reported himself to concussion protocol in the 2019 campaign

NFL players suffered 224 diagnosed concussions in the 2019 regular season and pre-season combined, 10 more than in 2018 but still off alarming 2017 totals, the league announced Thursday.

The data showed a rise from the 214 concussions in the 2018 season but remained well off the 281 over the same period in 2017, which pushed the NFL to ban using helmets to initiate contact and changed helmet designs to improve safety.

"Candidly, we need to have much more research by the (NFL Scouting Combine, which starts February 23) -- how rules affect all injuries, whether rules changes were effective," said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of health and safety.

Miller wants to examine whether or not banning lowered helmets making contact has changed the behavior of players and whether or not a 2019 rule to eliminate blind-side blocks contributed to a reduction in injuries.

The number of concussions in NFL pre-season practices fell from 45 in 2018 to 30 in 2019 after the league banned several high-impact drills.

But the league saw an increase in concussions suffered during pre-season games, data showing most of those concussions were suffered by players who did not make the team roster.

While inexperience could contribute to techniques that expose such players to greater risk, it could also be the case that the concussion plays a factor in keeping a player from making the final cut.

NFL games were stopped a record 19 times by spotters to remove a player from a game for a concussion test. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz reported his own injury after being hit in the head during his team's first-round playoff loss to Seattle.

The NFL's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said around a third of all concussion evaluations featured some level of player self reporting, with 485 concussion evaluations performed during the 2019 season.

Injuries to lower extremities, typically accounting for 60 percent of missed injury time in the NFL, saw torn knee ligaments drop from 132 to 109 for medial collaterals and 57 to 47 for anterior cruciates.

Lower-body soft-tissue injuries such as hamstrings remained between 580 and 610. The league continues to study the types of cleats worn on players' shoes as well as analyzing the relationship between turf styles and injury rates.