Could NFL players’ performance after a concussion mask the dangers?

The majority of National Football League (NFL) running backs and wide receivers returned to play quickly after suffering a single concussion and did not experience a decline in performance from that single event, potentially masking the true significance of these injuries, according to a new study from researchers at Penn Medicine and the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, as well as Wayne State University and the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. While more light is being shed on the effects that concussions have on player performance, the researchers sought to examine how athletic performance was affected immediately, which has not been studied extensively. The research was published in American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Two football players bent over a football with helmets in contact, potential for concussion.

“While it’s most often multiple concussive events that typically result in the long-term health effects, such as early onset dementia, a single event is still significant, and single events eventually add up,” said Samir Mehta, chief of Orthopaedic Trauma and Fracture Care at Penn Medicine, who devised the study. “Based on our data, if a player has had a single concussive event, it does not appear to put them at risk for on-field performance issues, but it may increase the risk for future concussive events, and close monitoring of these players is still essential.”

Mehta hypothesized that players who suffered concussions would often return to the field, but their offensive output (yards gained and touchdowns scored) would suffer. Instead, formerly concussed players did not experience a significant decline in their performance once they returned to play following a single concussive event.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.