By: Don Porcaro
As all fans, players and coaches know, football is a dangerous game. Every year, players ranging from youth football all the way into pro football suffer injuries that can sideline them for a couple games, a season or possibly even their career. While football has always been a dangerous game, this NFL season has been highlighted with season ending injuries to some of the games biggest stars. As the season approaches week 11, the list of NFL stars continues to grow.
Aaron Rodgers (Possible return)
Odell Beckham Jr
This is the growing list of NFL stars that will be out until at least next season due to serious injuries. There has always been a certain amount of NFL stars that go down, but in today’s league it seems almost a normality that a star player gets injured. Over half the league has lost one of their top players for the season due to injury. The question now becomes what has changed in making these top athletes so injury prone? There are three possibilities as to why these injuries are skyrocketing.
First theory- Turf Fields
For those of you that are old enough to remember P.F. Flyers, you would remember the old slogan “Run faster, jump higher”. Well, turf fields may actually be a modern version of the P.F. Flyers. With the added traction gained from running and cutting on a turf field, NFL players are able to move quicker, increasing the impact of hits.
However, some of these injures came from non-contact injuries. Because of the added traction players are able to move much quicker on the turf. Sometimes, too quick for their bodies to handle. As playing on grass allows your foot to dig deeper in the ground, playing on turf creates a different surface. Players are simply moving too quick for their bodies to handle, ultimately resulting in one of the most famous injuries in the game. Torn ACL.
Proponents of turf fields will argue that many studies have shown turf actually decreases the risk of injuries. However, most of those studies have been done by soccer leagues, in which the pace is much slower and the athletes do not make as many extreme movements. However, it seems almost every athlete that does tear their ACL blames the turf. Of course, not all ACL injuries can be blamed on turf, but maybe a few could have been prevented. I’m not a doctor by any means, but it seems like simple logic. The faster a player is moving, the more serious an injury is likely to be. I doubt it is a coincidence that a majority of ACL injuries have came on turf.
Theory Two- Bad Luck
This one is really simple. Being a full-contact sport, of course there is going to be a plethora of injuries. While the amount of MCL injuries has risen over the past few years, ACL injuries have stayed consistent. Concussions have also had no real consistency, ranging from 206 reported in 2014, 275 in 2015 and 244 in 2016 according to the NFL Injury Data. The same study has found the injury rate per game is actually higher for Sunday and Monday games, eliminating the argument of Thursday Night Football.
In 2017, there has been a total of 37 season ending ACL injuries, which seems to stay on pace with previous years. One main difference between this year and previous years, is that the injuries have impacted some of the leagues biggest superstars. Julian Edelman, Deshaun Watson, Dalvin Cook and Allen Robinson are all out with a torn ACL.
While a torn ACL seems to be the most feared injury, many superstars have been lost for the year due to varying injuries. It could very well be possible the focus on injuries could be due to the superstars that are getting injured. Or quite possibly, it could just simply be bad luck, like in the case of Jason Peters, who tore his ACL simply by getting his knee rolled on by an opposing player.
Theory Three- Emphasis on concussions
The NFL continues to lay down new policies on tackling and blocking. With a much stricter rulebook, it seems the NFL is making the league safer for it’s players. However, it is quite possible that the new rule changes are creating more injuries.
While there are basic fundamentals of tackling that players learn in youth football, those fundamentals get thrown to the side when going up against someone like a Rob Gronkowksi or Julio Jones. While helmet-to-helmet hits are now illegal, many other hits close to the head are considered targeting. This leaves many defenders to go after ball-carriers legs since most of them can not bring some of these freak athletes down by tackling from the hip.
While this altered form of tackling has decreased concussions, it has made ACL injuries more likely. Many players who tear their ACL or have torn an opponents ACL have brought up the difficulty of tackling without drawing a penalty. While these new rules may lower concussions, other injury risks may be increased.