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2015 was a big year in the NFL for concussions

The year the Concussion movie was released, NFL players were diagnosed with more concussions than ever.

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The NFL reported on Friday that reported concussions were up over 58-percent for the 2015 season. Part of this increase could be due to the use of independent concussion spotters during games and pressure to identify and properly treat concussions among players.

Another troubling reason, however, is rise in hits to the head, like the one of which was leveled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive player Vontaze Burfict on Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, knocking the star receiver out for the rest of the Wild Card game, as well as keeping him from playing in the Divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos. Though Burfict received a three-game suspension for his hit on Brown, many thought the NFL's response was too little, too late. Burfict had hit other players in similarly dangerous and violent fashion throughout the season.

League-wide, there were 92 helmet-to-helmet hits in 2015. In 2014, there were just 58. It is probably no coincidence that there were 182 reported concussions in 2015 and only 115 in 2014. While league officials identified better identification as a possibly reason for the increase, the role of officiating cannot be ignored. Despite an emphasis on sportsmanship and player safety for 2015, referees seldom ejected players and often appeared to lose control of games. While much criticism of referees focused on poor calls related to technical aspects of the game, many dangerous acts of violence went ignored by officials.

Many would argue these stats are a bit misleading. Hits to the head have been a part of the game since its infancy, but now the NFL is taking a step towards identifying these injuries quicker. It may be a baby step, but at least a step in the right direction, in terms of diagnosing and taking some of the power out of the hands of the players to self-diagnose a concussion.