Is it just me, or are more and more NFL players suffering season ending injuries? Now I know the NFL is one of the more heavy hitting sports out there, but it just seems like every week we see two or more players get knocked out for the year. Is it all just bad luck, or is there an underlying factor to all this?
As I write this, there are over 200 players who are already ruled out for Week 6. This does not include players who are listed as doubtful or questionable, and most of these players are on Injured Reserve.
JJ Watt and Odell Beckham Jr. were the two big names that sustained season ending injuries this past week, but there are more stars that have gone down. David Johnson, Eric Berry, and Ryan Tannehill are just a fraction of the big name players to have gone down for the year. The Baltimore Ravens lead the NFL with 17 players on Injured Reserve, and most of those happened before the season even started.
Many are linking these high injury numbers to the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. According to the CBA, which started in 2011, the offseason program was reduced by five weeks, limited full-contact practices, gave players more off days, and cut the amount of OTAs. The decrease in full-contact practice means that players don’t usually get accustomed to hard hits as quickly and the increase in off days leads to players working out on their own and are either not doing it right or doing it enough. Poor preparation leads to poor tackling, which leads to injuries.
Another reason has been the new rules the NFL have placed to protect quarterbacks and receivers. Defenders now get penalized for hitting a player high and near the head or if the player is “defenseless.” So now instead of risking a 15 yard penalty, defenders now have to go low and hit the waist and legs. As someone who used to play tight end all throughout middle and high school, having people dive right into your knees is not the most pleasant feeling in the world. Then you have players trying to stop dead in their tracks and end up tweaking their knee or ankle so they can avoid hitting the quarterback and getting a roughing the passer call. Or you a have someone stop dead in their tracks pulling something so they can avoid hitting a player who just went out of bounds. Now I have only taken high school physics, but it should be common sense that a 250+ lb. object is unable to safely stop on a dime.
Lastly, a big factor is that turf fields do more damage than good. For those that are unaware, turf is made up of rubber pellets, usually from recycled tires, and is intended so you don’t have to maintain it as much as natural grass. Turf fields do not have as much give as traditional grass, meaning if you’re trying to do a quick cut on the field, your cleat can get stuck easier. Once your cleat gets stuck and you cut, your leg can over rotate which can sprain, and even worse tear ligaments in your knees and ankles. The turf also is not as plush as grass when you get knocked down, meaning a broken bone is slightly more possible. Most, if not all athletes at any skill level prefer grass to turf due to the pressure on joints turf gives.
So what is the cause for all these injuries? Likely it is a combination of all three of these reasons, but we will never know. All we can say is that football is a contact sport and injuries are part of the game. They are just bad luck and nobody wishes an injury one anybody. Players and fans want the best product possible on the field, and having stars getting injured year after year hurts the game.