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NFL says diagnosed concussions declined in 2016

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28: Strong safety David Bruton #30 of the Denver Broncos lies on the ground in pain after a play that would force him out of the game with a reported concussion during a game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 28, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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The NFL says it saw fewer concussions in 2016 than 2015.

Today the league announced that the total number of concussions in 2016, including all practices and preseason and regular-season games, was 244. In 2015, that number was 275.

The question, of course, is whether that means safety measures are working, or whether concussions are going undiagnosed.

There is at least one positive sign that players aren’t hiding concussion symptoms: According to John York, a co-owner of the 49ers who is a medical doctor and heads up the owners’ efforts on preventing brain injuries, more players are voluntarily reporting that they have concussion symptoms, without medical staffers approaching them first.

“We’ve seen an increased number in self-reported concussions this year over last year,” York said on a conference call.

The NFL also said it put a greater emphasis on preventing concussions in preseason practices, which are usually the most physical practices of the year in the NFL. In 2016 there were 26 concussions in preseason practices, which is the fewest the NFL has seen since it started tracking preseason practice concussions in 2012.

Concussions were actually down across the board in 2016: There were fewer in preseason practices, fewer in preseason games, fewer in regular season practices and fewer in regular season games than in 2015.