Fewer Concussions After Football Rule Change

Markedly fewer concussions occurred following a minor-seeming rule change in Ivy League college football, an analysis of team physician reports found.

Concussion rates dropped 81% — from 10.93 to 2.04 per 1,000 plays — after kickoffs were moved up 5 yards to the 40-yard line in 2016, which had the effect of cutting the frequency of returns, reported Douglas Wiebe, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and co-authors in JAMA.

The rule change in 2016 was designed to limit kickoff returns, which previously had accounted for 21% of concussions but only 6% of overall plays in the Ivy League, a top-level conference in American college football. Overall, fewer injuries occur during kickoffs that result in touchbacks than on kickoffs that are returned.

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