Last year is going to be remembered for many things. The record-setting offense of the Broncos. The brash young defense of the Seahawks. But perhaps nothing will mark the 2013 season more than the concussion.
The year saw the NFL change the rules about hitting players high – a decision that changed the way the game was played. It included an unexpected settlement to the lawsuit brought by former players. But, most importantly, the role of medical personnel on the sidelines created a new layer of injury reporting.
It created more accountability, unlike the standard injury report, which is often misleading. Tom Brady has been listed as probable with a right shoulder imjury for the better part of the last seven years. It’s become a running joke with Bill Belichick.
However, given the expanding concussion protocol the NFL has instituted, it’s almost impossible for a player or a team to mask a concussion. He can’t take the field until he passes the baseline tests. As such, unlike players who are or aren’t listed on team injury reports, concussions are a different story. You know about them now. Players don’t get their bell rung anymore. They get concussions.
In all, there were 228 diagnosed concussions in 2013, but 76 of them were deemed mild enough that the player didn’t appear on the following week’s injury report. That is done 13 percent from 2012 and down 23 percent over the last two seasons.
Who and how often those players sustain a concussion might surprise some. It’s not the heavy hitters, it’s the player who runs the fastest and the farthest prior to contact. Some may have thought quarterbacks were the most vulnerable, but, by the numbers, they finish farther down the list.
Cornerbacks were the most likely players to suffer concussions, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise. They tend to be faster than other players and high speed often can lead to high impact. Cornerbacks had the most concussions with a collective 23, followed by 20 from wide receivers, 20 from safeties, 16 from tight ends, 16 from running backs/fullbacks, 15 from linebackers, 11 from defensive ends, nine from guards, eight from offensive tackles, six from quarterbacks, four from centers and four from defensive tackles.
While it will take time for the evidence of concussion protocol to create an accurate long-term database, the numbers tend to speak for themselves. Of the 152 concussions in 2013 that landed a players on the injury report, 79 of them (52 percent) came from the players who are sent downfield to catch passes and those players whose job it is to stop them.
Those numbers are extremely significant when you consider that the lesser numbers are at positions that have greater numbers. There were 15 concussions among linebackers, but every team has three linebackers on the field for many plays and half the league has four linebackers in their base defense. While just as many teams have two defensive tackles as have one, of the 32 NFL teams, just four defensive tackles suffered diagnosed concussions.
You can rest assured that the NFL is likely looking at these numbers, but, in an era where passing is the key to winning and losing games, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the athletes meeting at the ball in flight would provide the most collateral damage.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.