|The Panthers were second in touchdbacks in 2011. So that, um, Olindo Mare signing worked? (Getty Images)|
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:
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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