Several teams have found themselves changing plans this preseason after seeing a key player go down with a season-ending injury and the growing number of such injuries have some people wondering if those injuries have become more prevalent.
Both the NFL and the NFL Players Association say that they haven’t. The loss of players like Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, Orlando Scandrick, Ryan Clady and Junior Galette may leave teams shorthanded, but both the league and the union told Mark Maske of the Washington Post that there’s nothing unusual about the number of severe injuries to this point in the season.
“As a physician, your heart goes out to these guys,” NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer said. “You feel so bad for them. These guys put so much into this and it’s such a letdown for them, for their teams, for the fans. [But] as a research scientist, you have to say, ‘Let’s look at this over time.’ Statistically it doesn’t look like it’s a trend. Unless it continues at this pace for some time, it doesn’t look like anything out of the norm. But for each of these guys individually, it’s 100 percent of their experience. It’s a setback professionally and it’s very difficult personally.”
There have been coaches and others around the league that have shared their opinion that reductions in the number of practices and amount of hitting in those practices in the 2011 CBA have left players more vulnerable to injuries. Others argue that the league’s crackdown on high hits has left players at greater risk to knee injuries, but, per the league’s injury data, the number of ACL and MCL injuries has remained fairly steady in the last few years and, as we saw with Nelson and other players, many torn ACLs are non-contact injuries.
It’s still a subject that the league, union and teams should explore in order to make the game as safe as possible, but the end result may still be that playing football carries an inherent risk of injury that can’t be totally eliminated.