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Research Letter
November 20, 2018

Association Between the Experimental Kickoff Rule and Concussion Rates in Ivy League Football

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2Ivy League, Princeton, New Jersey
  • 3Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
JAMA. 2018;320(19):2035-2036. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.14165

The kickoff return in football, in which athletes run at speed toward each other over a long distance with the potential for significant impacts, has been associated with a substantial number of concussions.1 In 2015 in the Ivy League, a Division 1 conference of 8 private universities in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), kickoffs accounted for 6% of all plays but 21% of concussions.2 In response, Ivy League football coaches recommended a rule change. In 2016, the kickoff line was moved from the 35-yd to the 40-yd line and the touchback line was moved from the 25-yd to the 20-yd line. The intention was to have more kickoffs land in the end zone and thereby reduce the likelihood the receiving player will advance the ball, thus increasing touchbacks. However, moving the touchback line to the 20-yd line could cause receivers to try to advance the ball, possibly decreasing touchbacks.