NFL says concussions way up; will study reasons why

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The NFL says reported concussions rose 58 percent in regular-season games to the highest number in any of the past four years.

The league issued its concussion data for 2015 on Friday, a little more than a week before the Super Bowl, and it showed that helmet-to-helmet hits were also way up.

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety policy, said during a conference call the league will study what might have caused the incidence of head injuries to rise so much this season.

Among the possible explanations mentioned by Miller were a doubling in the number of players screened for possible concussions, “unprecedented levels of players reporting signs and signals of concussions,” and the fact that trainers who work as spotters or independent neurologists on sidelines “are much more actively participating in identifying this injury.”

According to the NFL, there were 182 reported concussions from 2015 regular-season games, reversing a recent downward trend. There were 115 in 2014, 148 in 2013, and 173 in 2012.

A year ago, the league touted those decreases as a reflection of players changing the way they play.

Rather than a discussion about the possibility that there were simply more concussions this season and what could have led to that, the emphasis during Friday’s call was on what the league and doctors touted as more efficient identification of head injuries during games.

“I see coaches report players and pull them out of the game. I see players report themselves. I see players report each other,” said Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee.

“Clearly,” Ellenbogen added, “we’ve lowered the threshold for diagnosing concussion, for pulling players out and evaluating them.”

While reports of concussions from helmet-to-helmet impacts sank from 91 in 2012, to 72 in 2013, to 58 in 2014, that figure climbed back up to 92 this season, a 58 percent rise that mirrors the overall increase in head injuries.

Looking at all sorts of injuries, there were a total of 1,672 during regular-season games in 2015 that resulted in missed time, the NFL told The Associated Press on Friday. That works out to roughly one per player leaguewide.

Watch Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts live on TNF

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The Indianapolis Colts host the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football in a battle of two former contenders whose seasons have gone wrong.

Following a strong start, the Broncos went 1-8, as their typically astute defense has struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone. Denver’s offense has not helped the team’s cause either. The Broncos have failed to find clarity at quarterback with Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch all seeing time.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

The Colts have had their own deficiencies this season without star quarterback Andrew Luck. Jacoby Brissett has provided admirable coverage under center with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but he has not been able to keep up with a Colts defense that has let up the second-most points in the NFL this season.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Broncos vs. Colts

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

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Watch Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders live on SNF

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The Oakland Raiders host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football as both teams look to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With a win, Dallas will maintain its chances of sneaking into the playoffs as a wild card. After struggling initially, Dak Prescott has been able to adjust to life without Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott threw for three touchdowns and a season-high 332 yards in the Cowboys win last week over the New York Giants.

If the Cowboys can hang around, Elliott can give them a boost when he returns from suspension next week heading into the final stretch of the season.

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The Raiders also find themselves in need of a win as they are in the middle of a contested AFC West battle with the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense will need to improve after dropping from the league’s sixth-best offense in 2016 to 19th this season.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Cowboys vs. Raiders

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app