By Mark Ackerman
DENVER (CBS4)– After years of steady declines in concussions in the National Football League, the number of concussions spiked from 206 in 2014 to 271 in 2015. The 31 percent increase comes as the NFL claims it is doing more than ever before to make the game safer.
This year the NFL enacted a new rule which allows medical time outs. At every game, two independent athletic trainers are paid to watch the games with binoculars from a suite atop the stadium. The medical spotters, sometimes referred to as the “eye in the sky” also watch replays of potential injuries on video monitors. The new rule change allows the spotters to call down to the sidelines to stop the game if they are concerned about a player’s health.
The medical spotter acted five times to stop play this season: Rams-Steelers on Sept. 27, Vikings-Broncos on Oct. 4, 49ers-Falcons Nov. 8, Broncos-Steelers on Dec. 20 and Eagles-Giants on Jan. 3.
But controversy surrounded the new rule in games where the medical spotter didn’t act, like the Rams-Ravens game in November. In that game, Rams quarterback Case Keenum was slammed to the turf suffering a concussion. He stumbled to get up, obviously injured, but continued to play.
“We have somethings to work out,” said Fisher who said not enough was done to protect Keenum. “There’s no TV replays on the sideline. I didn’t see it on the jumbo Tron. Had we seen it, we would have taken a different course of action.”
According to a CBS4 data analysis, it wasn’t the quarterbacks who were injured most. Cornerbacks suffered the most concussions followed by wide receivers and then linebackers.
NFL agent Leigh Steinberg says the culture of the NFL needs to change. He’s represented the biggest names in football and the movie Jerry McGuire was based on his life.
“The basic nature of players is they are in denial,” Steinberg said. “Real men play in pain. Real men hang in there. Real men under all circumstances stay on the field.”
Of the 271 concussions suffered in 2015, including practice, preseason and regular season games, the Broncos suffered few setbacks from concussions. Only three Broncos, Vernon Davis, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, were in the league’s concussion protocol during the regular season, Only Trevathan missed a game due to his concussion.
The medical spotter is just one of 39 changes the NFL has made to make the game safer over the past decade. We asked the NFL and Broncos for interviews for this story, but the requests were denied, giving no explanation why the number of concussions spiked this year.
The NFL Concussion data was released on Friday.