Injury rates in the National Football League during the 2020 COVID-19 season

Brooks N. Platt, Brandon Collofello, Nicholas Stockwell, Cale A. Jacobs, Darren L. Johnson, Austin V. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: The National Football League (NFL) altered the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in canceled preseason games and a dynamic regular season schedule to accommodate for canceled games. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if the disrupted training and preseason schedule lead to increased injury rates as seen in other professional sports. We hypothesized that the overall injury rate would be higher in the 2020 season compared to the 2018–2019 seasons and that this increase will affect all body regions equally. Methods: Publicly released NFL weekly injury reports were queried to identify players listed as out or placed on the injured reserve for at least one game in the 2018–2020 seasons. Injuries were categorized into upper extremity, lower extremity, spine/core, head, illness, not injury related and undisclosed injuries. Incidents per 1000 athlete exposures were calculated for the prior two seasons (2018–2019) and for the 2020 season separately. Percentage of injuries occurring in each position was calculated separately for the pre-COVID-19 (2018 and 2019) and post-COVID-19 (2020) cohorts. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) and confidence intervals were used to compare injury rates in 2018–2019 versus 2020. The z-test for proportions was used to determine significant differences between injury incidences. Results: The overall incidence rate per 1000 athlete exposures in 2020 was not significantly different compared to pre-COVID-19 seasons (21.6 versus 23.1, IRR 0.94, 95% CI: 0.9–1.0 p > 0.999). The proportion of injuries by position did not change before and after COVID-19 either (p > 0.999). Out listings due to illness were significantly increased during the 2020 season (0.8 versus 0.3, IRR 2.8, 95% CI: 1.4–5.2, p = 0.004). Conclusion: The incidence of NFL injuries did not significantly change in 2020. The distribution of injuries did not change with respect to position.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysician and Sportsmedicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • American football
  • COVID-19
  • Football
  • epidemiology
  • injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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