Researchers analyzed data from the 2012-2015 pro football seasons. They found that the players who suffered a concussion returned to play an average of 19 days later, which means they missed about 1.5 games.
Data collected between 1996 and 2001 showed that NFL players were sidelined for six or fewer days after a concussion.
The longer return-to-play time after a concussion is due to the stronger concussion protocol now used by the NFL, according to lead author Dr. Toufic Jildeh, a fourth-year sports medicine resident at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
"The high incidence of concussion in football and other contact sports continues to be a major concern," Jildeh said in a hospital news release. "While recent research has shown potential links between traumatic brain injuries and long-term neurological consequences, we sought to evaluate the potential impact of concussion immediately after a concussion."
This study focused on running backs and wide receivers. It also found that the 38 who suffered a concussion had no significant decrease in game performance up to three years after their head injury, compared with 139 who didn't suffer a concussion.
The study was published online Aug. 6 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
It adds to the growing research on concussions in sports, but more studies are needed to better understand the immediate effects of concussion, Jildeh said.
None of the study authors are associated with the NFL or an NFL team.