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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.

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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3 Comments

  1. Howard February 10, 2017

    The coaches are limited on game day to 46 players. During the course of a long season some players are going out on the field with injuries that many of us would believe are severe but to the players and coaches are part of the game. The league should allow the entire 53 man roster to be active on game day. In addition I think the league should allow teams to pull players off the practice squad if needed for a game or more without having to cut a player from the 53. The owners probably don’t want to have practice squad players up on game day because of $$$$’s.

    Lacy should have never been on the field against Dallas, Jordy probably should not have been on the field against Atlanta, Martinez with his sprained knee was probably rushed back, Lang was rushed back with his foot and broke it again. Last year Ty may have made it back on the field if he wasn’t being rushed because the team did not have enough WRs. Players are still being rushed back with concussions (except maybe the Packers) because they are needed. Leg strains or sprains involving knees, ankles, groins, and hamstrings do not get better without rest. Leg and lower body injuries usually cause a player to overcompensate either causing complete failure of the stained, stressed, or sprained area, or causing damage to a new joint or muscle due to added stress from over compensating for the initial problem.

    The teams will always try to rush back impact players, but with having 63 players available to make up a 53 man game day roster could help reduce strain, sprains, stress, and concussion injuries from complete failures resulting in season ending injuries. That would initially cost the team owners money so it will probably never occur. Really in the end I think it is false economy. The teams would potentially save players from season ending injuries that require the teams to add other player(s) anyway.

  2. Sheilla Dingus February 11, 2017

    Really appreciated your article Rob. It’s a subject of great interest and importance to me. I tried unsucessfully to find you on twitter. I’m @SheillaDingus and would love to talk with you, as I also write about these issues. My site http://advocacyforfairnessinsports.org – there’s a contact form there – goes straight to me. Would love to stay apprised of your work in this area.

    1. PF4L February 12, 2017

      She is no football fan. She got into sports issues because of her interest in deflategate. Then surprisingly, claims to be a Patriot fan. I don’t give a fuck what you do, but don’t try parading around as a NFL fan. You weren’t a fan before deflategate, and you aren’t a fan now. Her views, interests, and political leanings have nothing to do with being a football fan.

      She has a fund me page asking for cash, stating she can’t work, because she “lost” both hearing aids and her 2 dogs just “decided” to run away one day.. Claims she’s facing eviction. It says her family won’t help her. This page was started back in 2012 and is still active.

      Her bio says she has a job, but begs for money. What does she really do, in reality? She lives on blogs and twitter. And finds shit to bitch about and advance her political beliefs, and shame those who don’t agree.

      Patriots fan?

      Get a job.