Blog Entry

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:31 pm
The Panthers were second in touchdbacks in 2011. So that, um, Olindo Mare signing worked? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Prior to the 2011 NFL season, the league moved kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line in an effort to reduce the number of injuries on kickoff returns. The result, according to Hunt Batjer, the co-chair of NFL Head, Neck & Spine Committee, was a positive one.

Quite positive, in fact: Batjer told Brad Biggs of The Chicago Tribune that after the change, concussions were down 50 percent from the previous year.

We just got the data recently," said Batjer, the co-chair of NFL Head, Neck & Spine Committee and department chair of neurological surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "It looks to me like a decreased number of runbacks played a role. It did not affect a lot of the other injuries paradoxically."

This is a pretty logical conclusion to reach, if only because of the dramatic rise in touchbacks as a result of the rule change:

Year Kickoffs Touchbacks Toucback Percentage
2,572 1,120 43.55
2,539 416 16.38
2,484 407 16.38

Yes, it is kind of crazy that 2009 and 2010 featured the exact same percentage of touchbacks. It's even crazier to see the kind of spike that we did in 2011: quite clearly the rule change was effective in limiting the amount of contact that return units had.

In 2009, the Cowboys led the league with 29 touchbacks. In 2010, Billy Cundiff and the Ravens led the league with a ridiculous 40. In 2011, 12 teams had 40 or more and only nine teams had less than 29 touchbacks.

It's an obvious effect of moving the ball forward five yards. An obvious effect of that is less contact, with the final obvious effect being less concussions.

The end result is that you shouldn't expect to see the NFL move kickoffs back to the 30-yard line any time soon.

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Since: Oct 26, 2010
Posted on: February 17, 2012 8:37 am

"Illegal" Contact

Why should a DB be able to touch a receiver at all going downfield before the ball arrives?

Since: Sep 11, 2008
Posted on: February 17, 2012 8:21 am

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

Probably a lie by the NFL just to save their ass.  If the actual concussions did not drop significantly then the KO rule was not necessary, but we will never know the truth. 

Since: Jul 22, 2009
Posted on: February 17, 2012 8:14 am

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

According to the above statistics, there were approx. 2,100 K.O. returns in 2010 and 1,400 K.O. returns in 2011. A drop of 33%. Yet, concussions dropped by 50%. There appears to be more to this than simply moving the K.O. to the 35 yard line. I hate the touchbacks, but I don't like injuries either. Torn on this one.

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: February 17, 2012 4:02 am

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

Cry all you want.  Most of you can't even remember when kickers like Jan Stenrerud were prized because they were able to get the kickoff into the end zone regularly.  If kickoffs are the culprit for concussions, then obviously these statistics are good news.  Where the NFL has gone soft in the head is in handcuffing defenses, with stupid rules concerning illegal contact five yards beyond the scrimmage line.  The push to make this a quarterback-passing league with lots of fantasy football stats is more about making the game softer than anything about kickoff statistics. 

Since: Apr 23, 2010
Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:51 pm

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

Would be even less concussions if they played two hand touch or flag football instead...

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2012 10:55 pm

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

Unfortunately the way society has become the NFL had no choice but to make the changes we've seen the last few years.  Think about it for a second, retirees are suing the NFL for injuries they suffered decades ago and legal experts are predicting a victory, the only question being how much money the NFL is going to lose in what's probably going to be an out of court settlement.   That case is going to set a precedent and if the NFL doesn't make the necessary changes the league will burn for hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in the long run.  I agree it sucks, but it's true. 

Since: Feb 2, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 10:54 pm

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

No CRap there where 800 plus more touchbacks , they took the kickoff return out of the game ... They should just let the receiving team start at the 20 like those old basterds want ... NFL   football is getting too much like tag football Now !

Since: Feb 22, 2010
Posted on: February 16, 2012 9:56 pm

NFL says concussions down 50 percent on kickoffs

The new rule makes the kickoff as exciting as the intentional walk in MLB.  I know how to eliminate 100% of concussions during kickoff returns....just skip the kickoff and let each team start at the 20.  That is basically what the rule has accomplished.  The NFL is really dumbing down the game.

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