NFL: Concussions down about 5%, masks limited flu cases

Playing a season through a pandemic did not take the NFL’s attention off other health issues, specifically concussions, with the league finding those dropped about 5% in 2020.

Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, said Wednesday that 2020 is the third consecutive year when the NFL has had a reduction in concussions, or about 25% down from previous years.

“This is progress. This is not a success,” Miller said. “We will continue to implement our concussion reduction strategy again, focused on rules, the implementation of those rules and changes as necessary, refining how our players practice.”

The NFL is a game away from playing an entire season through the coronavirus pandemic, though Miller cautioned this season is not over until the Super Bowl is played Sunday in Tampa, Florida.

League officials gave an update on efforts to reach this game, including how the NFL found just how effective masks have been at protecting against more than just COVID-19.

“One of the side benefits, if you want to call it, is we had almost no influenza cases this year,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “And that’s not true just in the NFL. That’s in medicine in general.”

Sills said the league had 262 cases of COVID-19 among players and 463 cases among coaches, staff and other personnel. The NFL had an overall test positivity rate from Aug. 1 through the end of January of 0.08%, well below the country’s positivity rate and in almost all the league’s markets.

“That leads me to to make a statement that I think is something that all of us take pride in, and that is that we feel that our club facilities truly were some of the safest possible locations in those communities,” Sills said.

The latest positive results came Monday from tests conducted Sunday.

A barber tested positive for COVID-19 and was stopped in the middle of cutting Chiefs center Daniel Kilgore’s hair, ESPN reported Wednesday. Both were wearing masks and were immediately sent home. ESPN reports Kilgore has tested negative and is expected to return Saturday in time to fly to Tampa for the Super Bowl.

ESPN also reported more than 20 Chiefs players and staffers were scheduled to get haircuts with that barber Sunday, including Patrick Mahomes. Kilgore shared a photo of showing half his head shaven Wednesday on social media, calling it his “(hashtag)NewProfilePic.”

Sills said the NFL continues monitoring the situation but had its contact tracing team on site in Kansas City and had a clear understanding of the exposures. The league continues monitoring that situation closely, and Sills credited the Chiefs with taking prompt action.

“So at this point, we feel like we’re in a good position with that and we’ll just continue to monitor it,” Sills said.

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