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Study suggests slower football isn’t safer

Nevermind the math, Nick. (Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports)

It started last season when college football overlord Nick Saban lamented the impact of uptempo offenses on his beautiful game. The pace-of-play debate took on greater gravity this offseason as Old Man Football advocates like Saban and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema began making the argument that no-huddle offenses pose (greater) health risks to players. Bielema even went so far as to suggest rules designed to slow teams down between plays.

In fact, however, Bielema and Saban actually may be the ones who are threatening the safety of their players, according to Dave Bartoo of CFBMatrix.com.

Bartoo has published an analysis of 2012 injury data that shows that uptempo teams actually suffered fewer injuries than their slower-paced counterparts. He found that the teams that played the fastest last season lost fewer starts to injury on both a per-game and per-play basis.

While Bartoo's findings add some interesting color to the overall discussion, they should come with a note of caution beyond the usual caveats, such as limited sample size. Namely, the concerns expressed over no-huddle offenses tend to focus on both the number of plays being run and the vulnerability of defenders who aren't set when the ball is snapped. Therefore, the relationship between a team's injuries and its own pace of play somewhat misses the mark, because it doesn't speak to the defenses that are facing faster offenses.

Still, the study does at least cast aspersion on the idea that the volume of offensive plays run by a team has any bearing on its players' safety.

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