There are 17 weeks and 256 games in the NFL season. And this year, there were 225 concussions.
Josh Begley, data artist at The Intercept, just released a haunting film showing footage of the hits that led to some of the most dangerous head injuries that occurred in the pre-season and regular season football games this year.
"I have been tracking these injuries all season. Using a variety of methods, including reviewing daily injury reports from NFL.com, I have created what I believe is the most complete dataset of individual concussions sustained during the 2017-2018 season," Begley wrote. "The resulting film, 'Concussion Protocol,' is a visual record of every concussion in the NFL this year."
All GIFs via "Concussion Protocol"/The Intercept.
Most of the hits are shown in reverse, with the player lying down or woozy, before we see the powerful collisions that caused the head trauma.
When shown in reverse, the hard-hitting plays cheered for by so many lose their appeal. This isn't a highlight reel — it's a horror film.
The hard hits in professional football put players at risk for serious neurological conditions long after they hang up their cleats.
A study published last summer revealed that after the brains of 111 deceased NFL players were examined, 110 were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
This devastating condition is a build-up of an abnormal protein in the brain. As the protein accumulates, neural pathways are disabled, which can lead to aggression, loss of impulse control, confusion, memory lapses, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
The puzzling, degenerative brain disease is usually found in people with repeated head trauma, and can only be confirmed with an autopsy.
Denver Broncos strong safety David Bruton lying on the field in pain. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.
The NFL has taken small steps to acknowledge the dangers of the game, but their efforts only begin to address the problem.
In 2016, the League pledged $60 million to technological and engineering advancements, which is NFL-speak for "creating a better helmet." They also devoted another $40 million to funding medical research on the effects of head injuries. They also ensured that the nearly 50 rule changes they've made since 2002 were communicated to protect players from head trauma.
And yet, here we are. 2017 saw the highest number of concussions in the past five years.
GIF from Monday Night Football/ESPN.
$100 million certainly isn't chump change, but it's pennies compared to the money spent on building stadiums or paying NFL salaries. It seems less like a genuine commitment so much as hush money — a way to get the media and concerned fans off their backs.
Behind every hit is a human being with a family and a future.
Yes, they love the game, and so do their adoring fans. But at what costs? Is the fun, tradition, and camaraderie of football worth the lifelong damage?
And before you remind me how much these athletes are paid, stop. It's not just the pros taking these punishing hits.
In a recent study, children under 12 who played tackle football were at a greater risk to experience short- and long-term neurological consequences — everything from difficulty regulating their behavior to apathy and depression.
Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images.
Professional football is an American pastime and economic engine that's not going away anytime soon. But that doesn't mean it gets a free pass.
You can cheer for your favorite teams while also wanting its players to be safe and healthy. You can enjoy a game or two on the weekends and still push for the NFL to do better.
Or maybe you can't, and enough is enough.