Concussion Watch: Wild Card Weekend Roundup

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Nearly 10 players per week were diagnosed with a concussion during the NFL regular season, but that figure is poised to hit zero when the first injury report to reflect postseason action is released later this week.

Eight teams took the field in the first round of the playoffs this past weekend, and although Concussion Watch received viewer tips about two possible concussions, not a single team has announced an injury. It is always possible that a player won’t begin to experience symptoms until after a game, but several factors suggest that no new head injuries will appear on the next NFL injury report.

For starters, the eight teams that played on Saturday and Sunday was down from the usual 32 during the regular season. Perhaps more importantly, though, the only teams that will release an injury report this week are those that are still in the playoffs. That excludes data for 24 teams — including the four that were eliminated this week.

As FRONTLINE reported last month, the policy makes it nearly impossible to determine exactly how many official head injuries occur over the course of a season. Last week’s injury report, for example, showed just two new concussions were recorded during the final week of the regular season. That report, however, failed to include data for the 20 teams that did not qualify for the postseason. By comparison, an average of 10.2 new concussions were recorded on the 16 injury reports before it.

Separately over the weekend, a report by USA Today raised new questions about the relationship between NFL teams and the doctors they pay to treat players. James Andrews, a doctor for the Washington Redskins, told the paper he never had a chance to examine a leg injury to quarterback Robert Griffin III during a game against the Baltimore Ravens on December 9. Griffin was allowed back into the game by coach Mike Shanahan, but the following day, the Redskins announced Griffin had suffered a sprained lateral collateral ligament. “I’ve been a nervous wreck letting him come back as quick as he has,” Andrews said about Griffin, who reinjured his knee in yesterday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The NFL Players Association has called for independent neurologists on the sidelines to monitor possible head injuries, a measure the league has rejected by arguing that team medical personnel and doctors are best suited to treat players because they are most familiar with them.

In all, 165 concussions have been recorded to date this season, or 9.7 per week. That’s up from 5.4 per week in 2009, 7.6 in 2010, and 8.4 last year.

[Update, 1/11/2013]: The first round of the NFL postseason last weekend resulted in one new concussion: Houston Texans tight end Garrett Graham. The Texans reported on their website that Graham was injured after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Vontaze Burfict in the fourth quarter of their 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals (The hit can be seen 5:16 into this highlight reel). The concussion is the second of the season for Graham, who suffered his first against the Tennessee Titans on December 2. Graham missed one game before returning to the Texans lineup.

A view of FedEx Field during the NFL NFC Wild Card football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins on Sunday, January 6th 2013 in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Brian Garfinkel)
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