NFL Injuries - 2012 to 2017

2019 Week 1 Dataset and Historical Background

Posted by David Velleca on January 2, 2019

Dataset and Historical Background

Football is a sport with inherent risks. This is a fact that has been in the public conscience for well over a century. In 1905, following a particularly injury filled year in college football, President Theodore Roosevelt was under pressure to ban the game outright. Instead, he convened a meeting of more than 60 schools with the intention of making the game safer. The legacy of this meeting, in addition to several other rules, was the legalization of the forward pass.

Though pads had been a part of the game since a similar meeting in 1888 when a college football rules convention made tackling below the waist legal, football helmets were not made mandatory until 1939 in college and 1943 in the NFL. That's not to say that helmets were not worn before that time, but they were a far cry from the protective staple we know today. Helmets have undergone quite the evolution, from simple leather, to padded leather, to a suspended cradle made of woven fabric to provide space between the helmet edge and head, and eventually plastic in 1940. Interestingly, the facemask, something that anyone who watches modern football automatically associates with the helmet made its first appearance in the 1930s, nearly 40 years after the first helmet was worn.

Fast forward 60 plus years and the sport looks significantly different than it has in years past. The huge bulky pads have been replaced by lighter, more technologically advanced, safer pads; helmets are independently tested for their ability to reduce injury, with some even being made illegal; and the NFL (and college) has taken steps to review rules to reduce the likelihood of injury.

Since 2002, the NFL has instituted 50 rule changes specifically aimed at reducing injuries. From making helmet to helmet contact illegal, to outlawing leading with the helmet, many of the rule changes have to do with tackling a defenseless player. These are only the changes that are visible to the casual fan. Behind the scenes, the NFL is employing and consulting with medical professionals to continue making the game safer.

Whether or not you agree with the rule changes (enforced or proposed), I think we can all get behind the effort to reduce traumatic injuries. This week's dataset looks at the number of concussions, ACL and MCL tears in the NFL from 2012 to 2017. While not a very large time span, there are sure to be some insights in the data. We'd love to see what you can uncover! Download the data and see what you can do. Create your viz and post your work to Tableau Public and Twitter with the hashtag #ThrowbackDataThursday, tagging @TThrowbackThurs. We're really looking forward to seeing what the Tableau Community can come up with!

Data Source

This week's dataset comes from the NFL Play Smart, Play Safe, an initiative focused on player health and safety. Please be sure to cite the source on your viz.