(Below is an excerpt for the NFL’s recently released Health and Safety Report)
“There is an undeniable improvement in protection of players when rules, technique and technology seamlessly integrate, making the game safer to play. NFL rules are regularly reviewed by the Competition Committee and adjusted to protect players from unnecessary risk and make gameplay safer. The development of a thoughtful and comprehensive set of rules designed to remove unnecessary risk from the game continues to be an evolving process and the league regularly evaluates how new rules can best be leveraged to address safety and health issues.
“Five rules focusing on reducing unnecessary player risk were enacted in 2013, in addition to the implementation of mandatory thigh and knee protective equipment. Each year, as rules and other changes such as schedule adjustments are enacted, injury data is closely monitored to gauge if the intended positive benefits are achieved. Last season, after an initial adjustment period in the preseason, all players suited up with the mandatory thigh and kneepads for the duration of the season.
“Also in the 2013 season, specific rules enacted to protect defenseless players and decrease hits to the head contributed to not only a decrease in concussions due to head-to-head impacts, but most significantly, a decrease in the total number of concussions over the entire season.
“New safety rules and the resulting adjustment in technique in the 2013 season contributed to a decrease in concussions. However, concussion rates could have increased as awareness and technology for detection advanced. Players and commentators expressed concerns that the adjustments to legal tackling technique could lead to an increase in leg injuries as defenders aimed hits lower on the body. But statistics show that the total number of ACL injuries in the 2013 season decreased slightly from the previous season, and MCL injuries remained flat. In 2014, the NFL is continuing to address concerns regarding leg injuries with more robust protective regulations. Improving techniques in response to rule changes resulted in player safety.
“The ability of players, coaches and officials to make fundamental adjustments to tackling techniques and other approaches to play is a testament to the continued shared commitment to football’s longstanding heritage of improvements to safety and competition through progressive evolution.”