We’ve heard many defensive players talk about the increased risk of knee and leg injuries that they believe will be a result of the league’s crackdown on hits to the head and a survey of current players done by USA Today finds that current players are more concerned about those injuries than they are about head injuries.
The survey of 290 players who were on rosters in December found that 46 percent were most concerned about a knee or leg injury compared to 24 percent who were most worried by the prospect of head or neck injuries. The knee injury suffered by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on a low hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward was cited by several players as an illustration of their concern, including Ward’s teammate Shaun Lauvao.
“You saw what happened to Gronkowski,” Lauvao said. “That’s because of a rule change. The way it was before, he would have just got hit in the head. He would have been there for the next play. It’s a Catch-22. I know they’re trying to make it safer, but some rules changes just take away.”
NFL senior V.P. of health and safety policy Jeff Miller said that the league took the players’ concerns seriously, but that the league wanted to have more hard data before making any decisions about new or different approaches.
“When we look at the number of injuries and the types of injuries and the breakdown as to when and where and how those injuries occur, that’s going to inform the decision-making in terms of the health and safety measures that we take,” Miller said. “So if it turns out that the concern that is expressed in your survey is well-founded as we look at the number at the end of the year, then that’s something we’re going to have to address.”
It’s a delicate balancing act to pull off in a game that’s going to produce injuries as long as it’s played by excessively large men moving excessively quickly into one another and it figures to be one that the league addresses often in the years to come.