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NFL Management of Concussion More Conservative Since 2002

Last Updated: October 29, 2010.

The most recent six years of National Football League concussion data, published online Oct. 1 in Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, shows only a slight decline in the incidence of concussions but documents more conservative management by team doctors in their return-to-play recommendations.

FRIDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The most recent six years of National Football League (NFL) concussion data, published online Oct. 1 in Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, shows only a slight decline in the incidence of concussions but documents more conservative management by team doctors in their return-to-play recommendations.

Ira R. Casson, M.D., of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., and colleagues reviewed NFL data from two six-year periods (1996 to 2001 and 2002 to 2007) to determine whether recent increased awareness of concussive injuries has resulted in a change in the way team physicians manage injured players.

The researchers found that documented concussions declined from 0.38 per NFL game to 0.42 per game between the two time periods. During the second time period, there were fewer concussive injuries in quarterbacks and wide receivers but more in tight ends. A significantly lower percentage of concussed players returned to the same game in 2002 to 2007 than in the earlier time period. Most players (83.5 percent) returned to play in less than a week; 57.4 percent of injured players who had suffered a loss of consciousness returned in that interval.

"There are a number of possible explanations for the changes in the return-to-play data and the incidence of concussion during the second six-year period. Multiple factors may have played a role in causing these differences, including the efforts by the NFL, the NFL Players Association, NFL team athletic trainers and physicians, and safety equipment manufacturers to ameliorate the effects of head injury on NFL players," the authors write.

Funding for the research was provided by the NFL and NFL Charities.

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