Feb 1, 2021 - Sports

Most college football concussions happen during practices, not games

penn state football player lies on the ground with a concussion

Photo: Ned Dishman/Getty Images

A majority of concussions in college football occur during practice, not games, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Neurology.

Why it matters: Most rule changes regarding safety come at the game level, but focusing on revisions to training activities "could lead to a substantial reduction in overall concussion incidence," the study asserted.

By the numbers: Researchers reviewed 68 concussions over a five-season span (2015–2019), finding that 72% came outside of a game.

  • Preseason training was deemed the most deleterious, comprising just one-fifth of the time studied but nearly half of the concussions.

The big picture: The NFL already regulates practices for safety measures, which has had the intended effect — just 7% of concussions in the 2019 season happened during practice.

  • The NCAA, however, provides suggestions or guidelines for its member schools, as widespread change is more difficult for such a large organization comprising different conferences and divisions with their own agendas.
  • Past efforts include smaller strides like the 2015 mandate that required Power 5 schools to submit their concussion protocols for review.

Between the lines: Any hope for immediate action must be tempered as the NCAA's energy is still necessarily focused on navigating the pandemic.

The bottom line: "Concussions in games are inevitable, but concussions in practice are preventable," wrote concussion experts Robert C. Cantu and Christopher J. Nowinski.

Go deeper: Football practices pose more concussion risk than games (NYT)

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