“In validating last year’s drop in concussions, the NFL set a new benchmark,” said Jeff Miller, the league’s executive vice president of health and safety initiatives. “From here on we’re going to be driving our concussion-reduction efforts against that new benchmark. Last year’s number was a substantial drop. This year’s number is statistically similar to it.”
The 24 percent reduction in concussions suffered by players between the 2017 and 2018 seasons came after NFL leaders were alarmed by the 2017 figure and enacted a series of measures designed to reduce head injuries. Players were pushed into wearing better-performing helmets. Rules related to kickoffs and players lowering their heads and using their helmets to deliver hits were modified or enacted. Teams were instructed on the best practices for avoiding concussions, particularly during the preseason.
“We feel as if we’ve found a new place from which we need to continue to push down the number of concussions, using our injury-reduction plan but also looking for new opportunities, whether that be in the equipment or rules or practices space,” Miller said Thursday. “We look at this year as a validation of last year and an opportunity to enter into a new benchmark and a new place from which to start our injury-reduction efforts.”
Also Thursday, Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said the pain management committee formed by the league and the NFL Players Association has not drawn any conclusions to this point about the potential use of marijuana by players for pain management.
“As far as where the committee’s work is on that, it’s ongoing,” Sills said. “It’s very active. They’re looking at it not from a policymaking standpoint or anything relative to our drug-testing participation. They’re just asking: What is the state of the science? What can we say about safety? What can we say about effects on performance, both good and bad? So that work will continue on and I anticipate we’ll have a lot more to say about it in the coming months.”
The committee heard presentations last week by producers of CBD products.
“The charge of the pain management committee is to look at all forms of therapy that can improve the treatment of pain in NFL players, period, full stop,” Sills said. “That means that everything is under consideration. As we do that, that committee is looking at it on a very strong evidence basis. What does the evidence really show us? Because if we’re going to recommend or approve any kind of therapy for NFL players, whether it’s equipment or treatment or intervention, it has to pass an extremely high standard of proof.”
NFL players are tested for marijuana and can be punished for positive tests under the sport’s drug policies. But the marijuana policy is likely to be made less punitive during the current negotiations between the league and NFLPA on a new collective bargaining agreement, people familiar with the discussions have said.