INDIANAPOLIS — After the league made a series of rule changes regarding kickoffs for the 2018 season in an attempt to make the play safer, concussions on kickoffs were down sharply, the NFL said Friday.
According to league medical officials, there were 13 concussions suffered by players on kickoffs this past season, down from 20 during the 2017 season. That was a reduction of 35 percent.
This past season’s reduction was 38 percent when compared to the three-year average of concussions on kickoffs, according to the league’s data.
“It seemed to have the result that the competition committee wanted,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety.
The kickoff no longer is the sport’s most dangerous play in terms of both the rates of concussions and the overall injury rates, according to Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. The punt now has that distinction.
“All injuries were down on kickoffs,” Sills said.
The concussion reduction might prevent the rulemaking competition committee and other league leaders from considering the elimination of the kickoff entirely from the sport. When the NFL puts its new kickoff rules in effect for this past season, league leaders said a failure to make the play safer could result in future consideration of alternatives to the kickoff.
The new rules included eliminating players on the kicking team from getting a running start before the kick; creating a no-blocking buffer zone between the two teams; and eliminating all forms of “wedge” blocking with two or more players by the returning team.