Cardno ChemRisk publication related to injury prevention in the NFL

Cardno ChemRisk is largely concerned with how our environment influences our risk of injury and illness. Given that the majority of U.S. citizens spend the bulk of their time at their places of employment, we commonly look for risk factors in the work environment. For some people, the jobsite is the football field.

The National Football League (NFL) has recently been the focal point of much of the public’s attention and concern regarding player safety issues. Prior to the 2011 season, the NFL implemented amendments to the Free Kick rule, whereby the restraining line was moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line and all kicking team players other than the kicker were required to line up no more than five yards behind this line. The goal of this rule change was to increase touchbacks (where the ball is not returned) and to eliminate the customary 15- to 20-yard running “head start,” thus reducing injury frequency during special teams play. Using publicly available data, our study team quantitatively demonstrated that the NFL was successful in reducing injury rates, though the types of injuries occurring did not change across seasons. Therefore, almost all of the positive effects of the rule changes were attributable to a decrease in active gameplay, rather than to safer gameplay. The study abstract can be accessed here.

Our study underscores the need for systematic program evaluation and clear risk communication in professional sports, as practiced in other high-risk occupations. Given that OSHA does not currently regulate sporting events in the traditional sense, it is crucial that athletes are able to make informed decisions with regards to their participation. Further research into the mechanisms of and risk factors for sports injuries will be a key step in this important endeavor. Cardno ChemRisk is respected worldwide for its risk assessment experience, technical capabilities, industry leadership, and pioneering spirit. Our expertise in study design, data analysis, and program evaluation can help organizations not only prevent injuries among their athletes, but also position themselves at the forefront of this exciting area of research.