The NFL targeted seven specific clubs to help bring a decrease in preseason concussions.
After recognizing seven teams that had a higher frequency of concussions in the 2017 preseason than other squads, the NFL met with those clubs and saw concussions decrease from 23 in 2017 to just nine in 2018, as six of those specific teams also saw drops in concussions numbers, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.
In total, the league saw its preseason concussion numbers fall from 91 last year to 79 this most recent preseason. Additionally, there were no concussions on kickoffs after the league modified the rules to make it safer since kickoffs have traditionally had a higher rate of concussions than other plays.
"We are cautiously optimistic about that result," Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer said about the preseason concussion decrease. "We are pleased to see that number go down, but we still have a lot of work to do. We are continuing a more in-depth analysis of the concussions that did happen during the preseason. Doing some of the same work we've been doing during the regular season, looking at video and seeing what the practice environment is—seeing who was injured in what role. We are going to be doing more of a deep dive into that."
Sills explained at the owners meeting on Tuesday in New York how the league "did a targeted intervention" with the teams who were identified to have higher rates of concussions. He said they talked with teams about the designs of practice drills and the types of helmets players should be wearing.
Along with the NFL's vice president for player health and safety Jeff Miller, Sills said he is also satisfied by the league's new helmet rating system and how many players have made the switch to safer helmets. Working with the NFLPA, the league rated helmets on a scale of green-to-red, with green being safer and red being bad, and handed out flyers to teams during the preseason.
As of Week 3, the number of players wearing red helmets dipped down from 230 in 2017 to just 40, Miller said. New players were prohibited from wearing red helmets this season, but older players were given a "grandfather year" so they could figure out which of the safer helmets works best for them.
Despite the efforts to increase safety, the league is trying to limit the penalties for plays that might be illegal and is instead choosing to lean more on fines.
"We told officials if they don’t see all three elements of it, we can fine it on Monday and we’ll get the conducted corrected," Falcons CEO and head of the competition committee Rich McCay said according to the Associated Press. "I think the players have adjusted, the officials have adjusted and I know the coaches have adjusted."
There have been six penalties for illegal use of the helmet, but 10 to 12 players have been fined for those types of hits and nearly 70 warning letters were sent regarding using the crown of the helmet to initiate contact, NFL football operations chief Troy Vincent said at the owners meetings.