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Amendment to the Free-Kick Rule in the NFL

It is no secret that the National Football League (NFL) has been under substantial scrutiny as of late in regards to the effects of concussions on its professional athletes. In an effort to mitigate the risks of concussions and promote player safety, the NFL is constantly enacting new rules and policies. One recent rule change was designed to decrease injuries during kick-offs. The new rule set the starting point of the kick-off at the 35 yard line (rather than the 30 yard line), decreasing by five yards the distance available for players to build up momentum while running downfield before colliding with opposing players.

A recent study examined the efficacy of this rule change, finding that it successfully decreased the number of injuries on kickoff. The authors state that, “despite the injury rate reductions, the rule changes likely had little effect on player safety during active gameplay.” This study found that the reductions in injury-rate are more likely attributable to the number of touchbacks that occur—equating to less active game-play for kick-off returns.

After the massive lawsuit regarding head injuries in past NFL players, it is expected that the NFL will continue tweaking its rules—and equipment—to improve the safety of the game. Sports fans can only hope that the new (but necessary) guidelines are not a hindrance on the entertainment of the game.

To read the full study from 2015, click here