Concussions decline after change to kickoff rule

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Changes to the NFL's kickoff rules appear to account for a slight decline in the number of concussions reported across the league last season, according to a consulting firm's study of injury data provided by the NFL Players Association.

Jesse David, senior vice president at Edgeworth Economics, said the number of concussions reported on kickoffs decreased by about 43 percent from 2010 to 2011. That led to a slight drop in the overall number of reported concussions, reversing a multiyear trend toward more head injuries, he said.

"Most concussions are happening somewhere else, but kickoffs was one that they felt, I presume, that it was pretty easy to target," David said Tuesday, in an interview with The Associated Press. "And it looks like the rule did what it was supposed to do."

The NFL moved kickoffs up five yards to the 35-yard line last season, an attempt to increase the number of touchbacks and de-emphasize kick returns -- one of the most violent and chaotic plays in football.

The reduction in concussions on kickoffs was among the most significant findings in the study by Edgeworth, which has done consulting work for the NFLPA in recent years. Although the players' union no longer retains Edgeworth, it continues to provide data for the firm to study independently.

There were 266 overall concussions reported in 2011, a decrease from the 270 reported in 2010. The number of concussions that occurred on kickoffs dropped from 35 in 2010 to 20 last season.

The number of reported concussions had been on the rise since 2006.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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