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Concussions on kickoffs drop sharply in 2011

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NFL Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay was on PFT Live last week talking about proposed rules changes for 2012, but he was talking about one of 2011′s changes at the owners meetings on Monday.

The league moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line last season as part of an effort to cut down on injuries during returns and they got exactly what they hoped for as a result of the change. McKay said Monday that concussions on kickoffs dropped by 40 percent during the 2011 season which likely goes hand in hand with the fact that kickoff returns dropped by 53 percent.

McKay was understating things a bit when he said, via the Associated Press, that the rule change “had an effect on the game.”

There were 23 kickoff return touchdowns in 2010, accounting for a little more than one percent of all returns. The total number dropped to nine touchdowns in 2011 and a little more than one-half of one percent of all returns. That makes for a less exciting brand of football, but the goal was to make the game safer and, given the numbers, the NFL got what it wanted from the kickoff rule.

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24 Responses to “Concussions on kickoffs drop sharply in 2011”
  1. blacknole08 says: Mar 26, 2012 5:28 PM

    I liked that kickoffs were moved to the 35 yard line because it made the actual kickoff returns more exciting to watch (Randall Cobb’s KO return for a TD in last year’s opener was one of the most exciting plays of last year). So if this rule change prevents season ending injuries and concussions, then I’m all for it.

  2. mataug says: Mar 26, 2012 5:29 PM

    It is tough to get injured when you are not playing.

  3. rodgers419 says: Mar 26, 2012 5:34 PM

    “McKay said Monday that concussions on kickoffs dropped by 40 percent during the 2011 season which likely goes hand in hand with the fact that kickoff returns dropped by 53 percent.”

    So kick returns became more dangerous. Great job Goodell.

  4. sonvar says: Mar 26, 2012 5:44 PM

    I would really like to see full numbers instead of just percentages. I still wish they would have left kickoffs alone especially now that college football is about to adopt the same

  5. duhbears says: Mar 26, 2012 5:55 PM

    Well, I hate to admit it, but it looks like the 5 yard back rule is helping to prevent injuries. Gotta keep it now.

  6. lanjoith says: Mar 26, 2012 5:58 PM

    I bet concussions would drop dramatically if you took tackling out of the NFL too but it doesn’t mean fans want to see it or it’s good for the game.

    The NFL is going to cook the golden goose if they aren’t careful. If there are many more rules put in place to protect offensive players I will start to question my interest in the sport.

  7. jmash99 says: Mar 26, 2012 6:04 PM

    People play football in part for risks

  8. kairn42 says: Mar 26, 2012 6:05 PM

    Ok hang on a sec…

    My math may be fuzzy, but if kickoff returns dropped by 53%, and concussions on kickoff returns dropped by 40%, doesn’t that mean the end result is that there were a higher percentage of concussions per kickoff returns AFTER they moved it?

  9. therealjr says: Mar 26, 2012 6:06 PM

    Forget percentages, what is the raw data here?

    I can’t imagine there were that many concussions strictly on kickoff returns to begin with. Sounds like a lot of spin and PR to me.

    Maybe the NFL could actually drop a few dollars into R&D for better head protection?

  10. damadgreek says: Mar 26, 2012 6:10 PM

    The question should be did concussion rates drop as a whole in the NFL last year?

    Just because they dropped on a given play (kickoff returns) doesn’t mean that the strategy worked. There were less returns as a whole, likewise you would expect less concussions.

  11. wicky888 says: Mar 26, 2012 6:13 PM

    Excitement also dropped by 40%

  12. jason1980 says: Mar 26, 2012 6:14 PM

    Duh, considering there were only maybe five kickoff returns the entire season. We could eliminate all injuries in football by ruling any contact at all illegal. Yeah, why not turn the NFL into flag football. I’m continue to pony up thousands of dollars a season for my season tickets.

  13. godofwine330 says: Mar 26, 2012 6:25 PM

    Being that nobody counted the number of concussions on kickoffs before the change? Or how about this: The number of concussions and ACL tears drop precipitously during the months of February through June.

    SullBhit. They took the best play in football out of the game, the ability for your team to automatically come back when scored upon.

    Great job incompetent committee.

  14. xxwhodatxx says: Mar 26, 2012 6:39 PM

    How about the amount of concussions before the change? Oh I’m sorry I thought you were journalists.

  15. eyeh8goodell says: Mar 26, 2012 6:49 PM

    Of course concussions will drop if far fewer kicks are being returned. Something tells me that fewer people would get injured playing tackle football if if they simply stopped playing tackle football…….which is where the NFL is headed. Hope you like the Pro Bowl, because within 10 years that is what all NFL games will look like.

  16. profootballwalk says: Mar 26, 2012 6:52 PM

    lanjoith says: Mar 26, 2012 5:58 PM

    I bet concussions would drop dramatically if you took tackling out of the NFL too but it doesn’t mean fans want to see it or it’s good for the game.

    The NFL is going to cook the golden goose if they aren’t careful. If there are many more rules put in place to protect offensive players I will start to question my interest in the sport.
    ——————————————-

    We’ll miss you.

  17. malignantsociety says: Mar 26, 2012 6:56 PM

    here is some more math:
    sample size = too small

  18. zonedogz says: Mar 26, 2012 6:57 PM

    Duh? I’ll bet concussions could drop to zero if they eliminate kickoffs too! And injuries altogether if they eliminate tackling! Flag football anyone?

  19. ryansiefert10 says: Mar 26, 2012 7:23 PM

    Thats cause all there is now is touchbacks and it’s not everyday you see a player get a concussion during a touchback.

  20. deangelo1776 says: Mar 26, 2012 7:27 PM

    I feel like this is one of the most underrated statistic of the year.

    It was a big deal when it was announced last year, and now they have hard evidence to prove that it worked. It sucks not seeing as many returns, but that is good to see that concussions were down.

    Good decision.

  21. vetdana says: Mar 26, 2012 8:10 PM

    I have always been partial to great defense.Rule changes designed to reduce player injuries are, by default, going to favor the offense and take away good defensive play.The key is…..just how far do you want to take this ? At some point you are going to have a “glorified”…FLAG….football game.
    How many of us are going to cough up 200 dollars or more, for a ticket to a flag football game ? Many of us will pass !

  22. savocabol1 says: Mar 26, 2012 8:11 PM

    You need to compare the amount of kickoffs actually returned and the concussions received because of them. They are still happening in the same amount of frequency but the nfl and media ignores it.

  23. nj22 says: Mar 26, 2012 11:27 PM

    This has to be the dumbest stat ever. No $#!t! If you do not allow players to run and change the rules so they can only speed walk around the field while wearing huge fake sumo costumes filled with feathers I bet injuries will go down dramatically! The game will be completely injury and excitement free! You will still have the goons that are on here saying “wow I did not know that would cut down on concussions! Good job Roger!”
    Idiots

  24. robatopia says: Mar 26, 2012 11:40 PM

    The correct headline should be:
    Concussions on kickoff returns increased by 28%.
    The math: 60% as many concussions on kickoff plays divided by 47% as many kickoff returns = 128% concussions per kickoff return. That assumes zero concussions on kickoffs that weren’t returned, and that’s probably a non-zero number. It would be good to know what that is. And what was the ratio during previous seasons, is this within one sigma of the previous average?

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