Concussion Watch: NFL Head Injuries in Week 16
With just one week left in the NFL regular season, the league’s 32 teams are on track to report their second-highest concussion total in four years.
Through 15 weeks of play, FRONTLINE’s Concussion Watch project has tallied 135 head injuries — an average of nine per week — listed on the league injury report. The 153 concussions teams are projected to report would be down from last year’s total of 171, but up 18.6 percent from the 129 reported in 2010, the first season under a new series of measures designed to reduce the risk of concussions. Those measures have come to include mandatory guidelines for removing injured players from games, a new rule geared toward limiting kickoff returns, and limits on striking opponents with the crown of the helmet.
In Week 16, at least nine more players appeared to suffer a head injury. As the regular-season finale draws closer, these are the names that we’re watching for on the next NFL injury report, as well as our roundup of the top concussion-related headlines from the past week:
Bill Bentley, Detroit Lions
Bill Bentley went down with an apparent concussion in Week 16 after colliding with teammate Louis Delmas in the end zone. Bentley also suffered a concussion in the 2012 season opener. That injury forced him to miss one game for the Lions, but Bentley insisted it wouldn’t push him to alter his style of play.
“I can’t go out and worry if I’m going to get hurt or not,” he said. “God has a plan for everything, so whatever happens, happens.”
Andre Brown, New York Giants
Andre Brown left the field to be tested for a concussion in Week 16 after fumbling the ball early in the game’s overtime period. The Giants ruled Brown out of the game after confirming the injury, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
Brown took to Twitter after the win to say he was fine. The head injury was the second in as many seasons for the Giants running back. Brown also went down with a concussion during Week 5 of the 2012 season, missing one game as a result.
Vontaze Burfict, Alex Smith & Onterio McCalebb, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals added three players to the league’s concussion protocol after their Week 16 win over the Vikings: linebacker Vontaze Burfict, tight end Alex Smith, and cornerback Onterio McCalebb.
It wasn’t clear when Burfict was hurt, but according to ESPN, “Burfict did deliver a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the third quarter on one of his final plays of the game.”
There were few details to add on the injuries to Smith — who missed three games in 2012 because of a head injury — or McCalebb.
Taken together, the injuries mean that for a second straight week, the Bengals have added three players to the NFL’s the concussion protocol. Last week, linebacker James Harrison, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth were all recovering from concussions.
Dorin Dickerson, Detroit Lions
Dorin Dickerson suffered a concussion in the second half of Detroit’s Week 16 loss to the Giants, but he didn’t report the injury until after the game entered into overtime, according to an ESPN report. “Got a little concussion. Should have reported it,” Dickerson said. “Thought I could get through it.”
A team spokesman said Dickerson reported the injury at the 13:46 mark in overtime, at which point he went into concussion testing.
“I mean, honestly, probably, after we leave here, I probably won’t remember talking to you guys,” Dickerson said. “I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m just telling the truth.”
It’s unclear why Dickerson was allowed to speak with reporters after the game. As NBC Sports noted, “League rules prohibit concussed players from meeting with the media. Unless the Lions determined Dickerson didn’t have a concussion, he shouldn’t have been talking.”
Devin McCourty, New England Patriots
Patriots safety Devin McCourty suffered a scary collision in the third quarter of New England’s Week 16 win over the Ravens. As The Boston Herald reported:
[McCourty] went low for a tackle on Ed Dickson and hit the back of his head on Dickson’s leg. McCourty stood up but stumbled to the side before his teammates quickly held him upright, and shortly after that he was ruled out.
Phil Taylor, Cleveland Browns
Phil Taylor suffered a concussion in the third quarter of the Browns’ Week 16 loss to the Jets, Coach Rob Chudzinski confirmed after the game. Chudzinski added few details on how or when the injury occurred.
Steve Vallos, Denver Broncos
Steve Vallos was ruled out of Week 16 with a concussion after a violent collision with Texans lineman Jared Crick on a first-quarter kick return.
Around the League
- In Week 14, we reported that Vikings tight end John Carlson suffered his third concussion in six NFL seasons, and his fifth since college. That history with head injuries now has the 29-year-old pondering his future in professional football, according to a report in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “In a post-practice conversation Wednesday, Carlson said he and his wife, Danielle, will discuss his concussion history in depth after the season, and he indicated that retirement might be an option,” according to the report. Carlson said he’s had headaches from his most recent head injury, but no memory loss. “It’s a serious issue and it’s not something that I’m ignoring,” he said. “I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t feel that it was safe within the realm of safety and football, if there is such a thing as safety … We all know of guys that have degenerative brain disorders in their 40s. It’s a scary thing, but it’s one of the risks that we take playing football.”
- The National Institutes of Health announced it will begin work on eight new studies examining the long-term effects of repeat head injuries and how to improve concussion diagnosis. Two of the studies — which are receiving $6 million each from the NFL — will look specifically at what changes occur in the brain years after a head injury or after multiple concussions. Dr. Ann McKee, whose work was featured in League of Denial, received a grant to establish specific criteria for each stage of CTE with the ultimate goal of identifying symptoms that will allow doctors to diagnose the disease in individuals during their lifetimes.