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The NFL’s Concussion-Reducing Youth Program Probably Isn’t Reducing Concussions

Flickr / Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office

Over the past 2 years, the NFL has worked with USA Football and their program Heads Up Football to reduce injuries that keep many parents from letting their kids play the sport. Although they have claimed to have reduced injuries by 76 percent and concussions by 30 percent in kids ages 6 to 14, the New York Times was skeptical because the NFL isn’t known for it’s … veracity … when it comes to things involving brains and impacts. Its investigation suggests that you still might not want to indulge your kid’s dream to become the next Russell Wilson.

In February 2015, the NFL was given preliminary numbers of a new study from Datalys, a sports injury research firm. Those numbers looked pretty good, so the NFL ran with them. When Datalys completed the study the following July, they did not inform the NFL of the updated data, which didn’t back up the initial rosy picture. Accurate results would have shown youth leagues using Heads Up Football as their only program did not see any reduction in in-game injuries, only practice ones, and even saw a slight increase in concussions overall. No word on whether or not the researchers had also been hit in the head.

Both the NFL and USA Football acknowledged the mistake and reported that they will update their information, but stopped short of admitting guilt. Apparently, Datalys never contacted either organization about the revised data, which would’ve put the decrease at around 45 percent, including in-game and practice injuries (no revised number accounting for concussions, in-game and practice, was reported by the Times). But those numbers are nothing compared to the decline in kids playing football: Between 2010 and 2015, it dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million, and a mistake like this doesn’t exactly build trust among parents. If the NFL really wants your kid to play football, they’re gonna have to get better nerds on their team first.

[H/T] The New York Times