Were NFL Teams Underreporting Concussions Prior To Tagovailoa’s Injury?

Are NFL Teams Underreporting Concussions in 2022
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Last week, Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion on Thursday Night Football brought about widespread debate on the NFL’s concussion protocol.

The league took action in 2018 and has reportedly seen a steady decrease in concussions since but has the NFL really tackled the issue?

A closer look at the data suggests that teams may be under reporting concussions in 2022.

Check out the highlights below.

  • Official data suggests NFL teams were underreporting concussions in 2022
  • In 2022, there were only been 3.3 concussions per week in Week 1-Week 3, on pace for the lowest mark ever
  • Following Tagovailoa’s injury on TNF, there were 12 players added to the Week 5 injury report with concussions, more than double the amount in the first three weeks
  • Concussions in practice are UP since 2018, yet, concussions in NFL games are DOWN 35%
  • Concussions per week are DOWN only 7.7 percent during the preseason compared to DOWN 34.5% in the regular season

Next, we’ll take a deep dive into concussions in the NFL by examining injury reports from the past few seasons.

What Has The NFL Done To Reduce Concussions?

The NFL Players’ Association has been sharing injury data as part of an ongoing effort to advance player health and safety measures.

Over the last five seasons, reported concussions are down more than 50 percent.

Some of that decrease has to do with initiatives from the NFLPA, including rule changes, stricter guidelines, and the adoption of top-performing helmets.

After rule changes were implemented in the 2018 season, reported concussions dropped more than 31 percent.

Compared to the 2017 campaign, reported concussions were down more than 50 percent in 2021, dropping from 281 to 187.

However, are better helmets and rule changes actually making a difference or is something else going on behind the scenes?

Are NFL Teams Failing To Report Concussions?

Since 2002, the NFL has made more than 50 rule changes intended to reduce risk for players.

The NFLPA has been adamant that concussions have been on the decline but a closer examination of the facts tells a different story.

From 2015-2020, there were an average of 10.2 concussions per week during the regular season and 11.7 concussions per week during the preseason and regular season combined.

In 2021, there were only 135 concussions in the expanded 17-game season for an average of 7.9 concussions per week, the lowest mark since the NFL started compiling data back in 2015.

In 2022, NFL teams only reported concussions for 10 different players in 3 weeks or 3.33 per week, which would be the lowest mark ever by a wide margin.

Yet, after Tagovailoa’s scary concussion on Thursday Night Football, 12 new players showed up on the Week 5 injury report with reported concussions, more than double the amount through the first three games combined.

Using official NFL.com injury reports, we’ll compare the reported concussions for Weeks 1 through 4 during the 2021 and 2022 regular season.

Reported Concussions in 2022

During the first three weeks of the 2022 NFL season, only 10 different players suffered reported concussions.

Overall, there were 13 instances where a player was listed with a concussion with some players forced to stay on the injury report for multiple weeks.

Below, we tallied the number of NFL players that suffered concussions listed on the injury report in Week 1 through Week 5.

  • 2022 Week 1 – 0 players
  • 2022 Week 2 – 5 Players
  • 2022 Week 3 – 6 Players
  • 2022 Week 4 – 2 Players
  • 2022 Week 5 – 12 Players

Below, you’ll find a list of all of the reported concussions for each week during the 2022 NFL season.

Week 1

  • None

Week 2

  • Cethan Carter
  • Alec Pierce
  • Tee Higgins
  • Andre James
  • Jon Runyan

Week 3

  • Cethan Carter
  • Harrison Smith
  • Hunter Renfrow
  • Andre James
  • Justin Layne
  • Casey Toohill

Week 4

  • Cethan Carter
  • Andrus Peat

Week 5

  • Tua Tagovailoa
  • Isaiah McKenzie
  • PJ Locke
  • Aaron Patrick
  • Adrian Amos
  • Blake Cashman
  • Shaquille Leonard
  • Denzel Perryman
  • Terrell Edmunds
  • Tyrod Taylor
  • Julian Love
  • Cameron Brate

Reported Concussions in 2021

In 2021, 21 different players suffered a concussion from Week 1 to Week 3.

In total, there were 25 instances of players listed with concussions on the injury report from Week 1 to Week 4.

Check out the breakdown below.

  • 2021 Week 1 – 0 players
  • 2021 Week 2 – 8 players
  • 2021 Week 3 – 7 players
  • 2021 Week 4 – 10 players
  • 2021 Week 5 – 7 players

Week 1

  • None

Week 2

  • Marcus Epps
  • Nick Kwiatkoski
  • Everson Griffen
  • D’Wayne Eskridge
  • Kevin Strong
  • Tyrell Williams
  • Josiah Deguara
  • Lucas Patrick

Week 3

  • Terrance Mitchell
  • Jordan Glasgow
  • DeShon Elliott
  • Kevin Strong
  • AJ Terrell
  • Dallin Leavitt
  • D’Wayne Eskridge

Week 4

  • Benjamin St-Juste
  • Terrance Mitchell
  • Jon Feliciano
  • Rashad Fenton
  • Jeff Smith
  • Elijah Moore
  • Chukwuma Okorafor
  • D’Wayne Eskridge
  • Kevin King
  • Krys Barnes

Week 5

  • D’Wayne Eskridge
  • Jeff Smith
  • Brandin Echols
  • Adrian Colbert
  • Shaun Wade
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Antoine Winfield Jr.

Are NFL Concussions Being Underreported In 2022?

After the Tagovailoa incident, it’s worth revisiting the data to review whether teams are simply failing to report concussions.

For instance, Tagovailoa’s first potential concussion this season was deemed a back injury, allowing him to return to the game after apparently losing motor function.

Check out the clip below.

In 2022, only 10 players suffered reported concussions during the first three weeks of the NFL season.

That number is down considerably from 2021 when 21 players suffered reported concussions during that same span.

Is it possible that this instance is revealing an underlying trend that is actually helping to skew the concussion data?

Following Tagovailoa’s injury on Thursday Night Football, 12 different players showed up on the NFL Week 5 injury report with reported concussions, more than double the amount in the first three games.

Not only did NFL teams seem to be underreporting concussions, but some of the data doesn’t seem to add up.

For example, practices generally feature less contact than games, yet concussions are up during practice since the NFL started taking player safety more seriously in 2018.

From 2018-2021, concussions in practice actually increased by 1.23 percent in the preseason and 7.69 percent during the regular season compared to 2015-2017.

Yet, at the same time, concussions during NFL games are down more than 35 percent during that same span.

Meanwhile, concussions per week are down only 7.7 percent during the preseason compared to 34 percent in the regular season.

That begs the question, is the league’s concussion protocol too lenient or are NFL teams failing to report concussion-like symptoms during the regular season when it’s more important to keep players on the field?

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