NFL Injuries, Part 1: the NFL’s Predominant Concern?
Like any booming business, the NFL faces constant challenges. Six years ago I would have thought that labor issues posed the biggest threat to the enterprise, but a collective bargaining agreement was reached in 2011, and it runs through the 2020 season.
The NFL is certainly worried that it has reached the saturation point, as to its marketing and popularity. Television viewership was down a fair amount, and maybe for the first time, last year. At worst, the popularity of the game has perhaps peaked, but the NFL isn’t about to wither and die.
There seems to be no shortage of cities, including worldwide, who would love to have an NFL team. Even without expansion, most teams are doing fine financially and just a couple of teams can’t seem to move up from the bottom of the standings.
While from a corporate standpoint, the NFL is in very good health, I’d say that player health is another matter. Injuries is the subject that NFL leaders should be most concerned about. It’s a problem that cannot be solved. At best, it can be lessened and even this will require a huge amount of research, experimentation, equipment improvements and rule changes.
The explosion of injuries, which I hope to document somewhere along the way, is casting a dark and disturbing shadow over the game. While there will always be more bodies to step in when players go down, what about the injured? We are not only seeing serious temporary injuries and even career-threatening ones. We are becoming witnesses to life-shortening injuries.
Frailty of the Human Body
Chiefly among football injuries is, of course, the concussion injury. We’ve already seen how that has affected the sport of boxing. Exhibit A: Muhammed Ali. Once, boxing matches were one of the nation’s most followed pastimes. I don’t even know anyone who pays attention to the few boxing events that take place anymore.
Care to guess how many former NFL players are expected to partake in the NFL’s concussion settlement? The answer is below.
Next in line after concussions has to be knee injuries, primarily ACL injuries. While surgery has made wonderful strides in repairing ligament tears, it remains a devastating injury that robs a player of a year of his career and often fails to restore him to his full former ability.
Third on the list might well be ankle injuries. As the Green Bay Packers have learned, if these aren’t allowed enough time to heal, they get worse instead of better. Ankle injuries nowadays often lead to surgeries.
Shoulder injuries are becoming about as frequent as ankle injuries in the NFL. These also are trending toward surgical cures, especially those done in the offseason.
Are there any joints left? Wrists, hips and knuckles. What about turf toe?
Broken bones? Femurs, collarbones, forearm bones, ribs, thumbs and fingers. The Packers can attest to the rise in broken thumbs or fingers, as Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Jeff Janis have all been members of the “club” club within the past two years, while Don Jackson and Jayrone Elliott also had hand injuries in 2016.
Rounding out the list of frequent NFL injuries is one that the Packers seem to own: hamstring injuries. Green Bay’s list for 2016 includes: Geronimo Allison, Chris Banjo, Randall Cobb, Jayrone Elliott, Kyler Fackrell, Josh Hawkins, Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers. We used to think of “hammies” as maybe a two-week concern, but more recently they can wipe out half or more of a season and they can also lead to surgical intervention.
That’s about it for Green Bay’s injuries, other than those to the abdomen, back, calf, elbow, groin, neck and quadriceps.
Concussion Lawsuit Settlement
The league has already found out — the hard way — that there are huge legal and liability issues concerning injuries to NFL players.
You probably know there’s been settlement negotiations going on for years between the league and victims of concussion. Though I didn’t see much news on it, the NFL players’ concussion litigation class action suit settlement became final and effective on January 7.
We were originally told a settlement was reached for $765 million in 2013, but that was was thrown out and the new sum of $1 billion was eventually agreed to. That too was again appealed by the players. In early December, the Supreme Court rejected those challenges, clearing the way for individual payments to begin. February 6 was the first day retired players and their families could register to get the individual settlement process underway.
Care to guess how many ex-NFL players are affected? By the league’s own estimate, 6,000 former players or nearly three in 10, could develop Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia due to these football injuries.
Football injuries is surely not a favorite topic of football fans, but diehard fans at least have to appreciate the affect it’s having on the game and might have in years to come. Even for the NFL, $1,000,000,000 is a mind-boggling amount.
Off and on during the offseason, I’ll be exploring many aspects of football injuries and in particular how they relate to our beloved, but breakable, Packers.