Concussion Watch: NFL Head Injuries in Week 18

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With the NFL’s regular season now over and the playoffs underway, a gap in how teams report injury data means that the total number of concussions taking place becomes harder to tally by the week.

Here’s why. As FRONTLINE reported last season, the 20 teams that fail to reach the postseason stop reporting injury data following the regular-season finale. For those 20 teams, this means that any injuries that took place in Week 17 are left off the injury report. The same issue arises for the 12 teams that reach the postseason as they’re eliminated from play.

Take last weekend, for example.  In their 45-44 loss to the Colts, the Chiefs had three players — running back Jamaal Charles, receiver Donnie Avery and cornerback Brandon Flowers — all exit the game because of a head injury. None will make the next injury report. The same is true for David Bakhtiari of the Packers. Bakhtiari was taken to the locker room for evaluation midway through Green Bay’s loss to the 49ers, but according to a Fox sideline reporter, forced his way back into the game.

In all, NFL teams have reported 147 concussions on the league injury report, according to FRONTLINE’s Concussion Watch project. That number will rise to 149 if the following two injuries from last weekend are added to the injury report when it’s released on Friday:

LaRon Landry, Indianapolis Colts

Colts safety LaRon Landry left the field in Week 18 after taking a knee to the helmet while trying to make a tackle.  Before realizing that Landry was injured, teammate Kelvin Sheppard ran over and smacked him in the head to congratulate him for making the play.

Keenan Lewis, New Orleans Saints

The apparent head injury that knocked Keenan Lewis from Week 18 is an example of the league’s heightened sensitivity over concussions. The New Orleans cornerback was hurt leading with his helmet on a tackle against Jason Avant of the Eagles. Lewis was tested for a head injury, and though he pleaded with coaches to let him back on the field, the team took away his helmet to prevent him from returning. As NBC commentator Chris Collinsworth noted, “When I was playing football, he would be back in the game. The doctors now are taking a much stronger approach to this issue.”

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