NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a Super Bowl news conference at the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday in Phoenix. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
PHOENIX, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- The number of NFL player concussions increased during the 2022-23 season because of the league's increased examinations of head injuries, commissioner Roger Goodell said at his annual Super Bowl news conference Wednesday in Phoenix.
The NFL announced last week that 149 reported concussions were sustained in 271 games this season. That total represents an 18% increase from 2021, and is 14% higher than the average of 130 concussions over the three previous seasons.
"I think it's hard to draw conclusions from one year," Goodell said in a ballroom at the Phoenix Convention Center. "I think there's some specific reasons to why the concussion rate is up this year.
"No. 1, the definition of concussions changed during the season. We had more evaluations, and that's going to lead to more recorded concussions.
"We don't want concussions to occur. We want to prevent them and we want to treat them, but we're not afraid of having them be diagnosed.
"That's something that's really important for us, and why we encourage players and coaches and everyone else to come forward when they have symptoms, so we can deal with those medically and make sure that they're handled professionally."
The NFL also reported that overall injuries were down nearly 6% compared to 2021-22. Goodell said the league plans to study specific plays, tackling methods and other data to decrease that total.
"We have some techniques that we've seen sort of develop through the season that we want to look at," Goodell said. "There are a couple that we think of lead to injuries that we want to be cautious of and to try to see if there's a way to remove those from the game."
Goodell said he didn't believe that the recent addition of a 17th regular-season game -- and 18th week -- should be re-evaluated.
"The injury rate is absolutely no different [in Week 18] than any other week," Goodell said.
Researchers at Boston University announced Monday they found chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brains of more than 91% of former NFL players involved in a study about the delayed neurodegenerative disorder.
Medical experts say those who sustained repeated hits to their head may have a higher risk of developing CTE.
The NFL made changes to its concussion protocol in October, after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit his head and collapsed on the field twice in two games.
Tagovailoa was allowed to return to the field after collapsing in the first contest. He then hit his head and fell to the ground again in the next game, just five days later.
Those sequence of events also led the NFL Players Association to fire a doctor involved in Tagovailoa's evaluation. Changes also were made to the league's return-to-play protocol.
The modifications to the concussion protocol, announced by the NFL and players union, allow evaluators to rule out players immediately if they exhibit any form of gross motor instability.
Tagovailoa entered the concussion protocol again Dec. 26 and missed the Dolphins' final two regular-season games and a playoff matchup. He didn't exit the protocol until mid-January.
"There is no magical 'this is what we want,'" DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the players' union, said Wednesday at another news conference at the Phoenix Convention Center.
"This has been a relentless a relentless effort to constantly improve safety."
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes speaks to the media at the Super Bowl LVII Opening Night event at the Footprint Center in Phoenix on February 6, 2023. The Kansas City Chiefs will will play the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on February 12. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo