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NFL concussions drop 25 percent from '17 season

INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL players were diagnosed with three concussions during the 2018 playoffs, a 70 percent drop from the previous year and a continuation of a season-long trend.

In total, there were 217 diagnosed concussions in practices and games during the 2018 season, compared to 291 in 2017, the league revealed Thursday during a meeting of its Head, Neck and Spine committee at the scouting combine. League officials had previously acknowledged a drop in concussions during the preseason and regular season but had not yet added the playoff numbers. There were 10 concussions during the 2017 playoffs.

The overall drop of approximately 25 percent from 2017 to 2018 came after a "call to action" from Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, during the 2017 combine. The league joined the NFL Players Association to produce a three-part concussion-reduction strategy: intervening in early training camp practices, prohibiting underperforming helmet models and instituting a series of rule changes rooted in biomechanical research.

Concussions did not decrease during training camp practices, Sills said during Thursday's meeting, a portion of which was open to reporters. But 50 percent of players moved into better-performing helmets, according to the league. Meanwhile, two significant rule changes -- use of helmet and a reimagined kickoff -- were passed with concussions in mind and contributed to a 29 percent drop in concussions during games.

Sills said the 2018 numbers were "very positive" but said the league asked its injury-data consultants to determine whether the numbers could be attributed to the reduction strategy or random variance. Concussion totals over the past six seasons have ranged from 206 in 2014 to last season's high of 291.

The league is convinced, Sills said, that the drop was not random.

"As physicians and scientists," Sills said, "we would all say if we had a disease and came up with a plan to attack it, a 25 percent reduction in one year is really a very positive start. At the same time, we have to say that the work is clearly not done. There is no finish line in health and safety. We're very pleased and proud of this start, but there is more work to be done."