Study of Big Ten football injuries shows NCAA rule change did not reduce injury rates

A new study conducted by the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee finds that a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rule change, instituted in 1998, limiting the number and type of spring football practice sessions did not have the desired effect of reducing the spring injury rates to levels equal to or lower than those of fall practices.

In 1998, in light of evidence that injury rates for collegiate spring football practice were significantly higher than injury rates for fall practices, the NCAA legislated a decrease in the number of scrimmages and full-contact practices allowed in the spring. The new study confirms the NCAA reason for the rule change in that spring injury rates were indeed higher than in the fall, but the study indicates that the rule changes have not been successful in lowering spring injury rates. In fact, in the three years following the rule changes, the spring injury rates actually increased from almost two times the fall injury rate to more than three times the fall rate, according to the findings.

"Our hypothesis was that the rule changes would not reduce the injury rate back down to the level seen in the fall," said John Albright, M.D., University of Iowa professor in the Sports Medicine Center in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and first author on the study. "We found that the injury rate for spring practices after the rule changes was three times that of fall practices. We also discovered some interesting characteristics about the injury rates."

Firstly, the study showed that the spring game was not as bad as expected and was more injury-free than most scrimmages. However, the two remaining spring scrimmages had the highest injury rates. Interestingly, limited-contact practices defined as "practice with pads but without tackling" actually produced a higher injury rate than full-contact practices.

"The NCAA rule change pres

Contact: Jennifer Brown
University of Iowa

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