New Kickoff Rule Reduced Concussions

October 1, 2018

Since 2016, the Ivy League's eight football teams have tested a new rule involving moving the kickoff line, and researchers have found that the move reduced concussions to players.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2015, only 6% of all plays in the Ivy League games were kickoffs, but they were resulted in 21% of the concussions suffered in league, largely as a result of players rushing toward each other at high speeds. The new rule moved the kickoff line from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line, thus resulting in more kicks landing in the end zone, giving players the option of downing the ball for a touchback.

Douglas Wiebe, an epidemiologist in charge of the Penn Injury Center, led researchers in gathering data on games from 2013-2017, and found that touchbacks became more common after the rule was implemented—an average of 48% of kickoffs resulted in touchbacks in 2016 and 2017, up from 17.9% from 2013 to 2015.

The rate at which athletes suffered concussions also decreased, from an average of 10.9 concussions per 1,000 kickoffs in the first three seasons, to 2.04 concussions per 1,000 kickoffs in the latter two. Wiebe and his colleagues concluded the change was not a coincidence, and while it was possible that the 2016 ban on full-contact hitting during practices may have contributed, they found that the kickoff rule resulted in 7.5 fewer players suffering concussions for every 1,000 kickoffs.

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