Injury Rates Remained Elevated in the Second National Football League Season After the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Brooks Platt, Varag Abed, Camille Khalily, Breanna Sullivan, Matthew Skinner, Cale Jacobs, Darren Johnson, Austin V. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare the injury incidence of the 2018-2019 and 2020 National Football League (NFL) seasons with the 2021 season. Methods: Publicly released NFL weekly injury reports were queried to identify players listed as “out” or placed on injured reserve (IR) for at least 1 game in the 2018-2021 seasons. Injuries were then categorized into upper extremity, lower extremity, spine/core, and head. Incidence per 1,000 athlete exposures were calculated for each season, and proportions of injuries by position were calculated separately for the 2018-2019, 2020, and 2021 cohorts. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) were used to compare injury rates. Results: Overall injury incidence in the 2021 NFL season increased compared to the pre-COVID-19 seasons (2018-2019) in all anatomical zones except for the upper extremity (28.70 vs 23.09 per 1,000 exposures, IRR 1.24 [95% CI: 1.14-1.36]; P < .001). The injury rate remained elevated and further increased in 2021 compared to the 2020 season for all anatomical zones other than the spine/core [28.70 vs 21.64 per 1,000 exposures, IRR 1.33 (1.19-1.47); P < .001]. No significant difference existed during the early season (weeks 1-4); however, injury rates after week 4 increased in 2021 compared to both the 2018-2019 and 2020 seasons. Conclusion: The injury incidence in the 2021 season remained elevated and increased further compared to both the 2018-2019 and 2020 seasons. Traumatic injuries resulting in missed games increased despite return to a more traditional season since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The injury rates significantly increased in mid-season to late season.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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