The Non-Contact Injury Epidemic

As the first action of the 2018 NFL preseason wraps up, fantasy owners are watching closely and rating their future star selections. With this in mind, the #1 things that every owner and fan worries about is, you guessed it, Injuries! No matter the position battle or the potential of finding a diamond in the rough, injuries are the thing we all are concern about. Whether it’s a low-grade hamstring strain that leaves a player laid up for the first 3 weeks of the regular season (IE Odell Beckham in 2014) or of the season ending variety (IE Julian Edelman in 2017 and Breakout star Hunter Henry 2018).

In a recent study, published in 2016, the researchers reviewed all ACL injuries suffered throughout the 2010 to 2013 seasons. It was found that August has highest incidence of ACL and noncontact injuries as compared to any other month in the NFL season (primarily because the pool of players trying out for teams is so high). Also, ~18% of the ACL tears reported in the article were second injuries sustained by the player. Of the 219 players, 27 were re-ruptures of a previous ACL repair and 16 were injuries to the contralateral or opposite leg. Another key point was the field type was observed to have no significant impact of injury risk. This is what the research tells us, but still.

It just seems that every year more and more players are suffering season ending injuries. Could it be from field type or footwear? Maybe, maybe not.

In my professional opinion a lot has to do with how big, fast, and strong the freakish athletes in the NFL and in sports in general have gotten. Similar to the ever increasing frequency of Tommy John Surgery (IE UCL Reconstruction) in baseball, which is directly related to how much harder pitchers are throwing today; ACL and noncontact injuries have been increasing as NFL players have gotten bigger, faster, and stronger because the ACL does not change in size or strength like bone or muscle. It takes a lot to decelerate (IE slow down) a 200lb running back from a jump cut before hitting a hole to slash up field.

In most cases, normal everyday people get hurt because they slip and fall or do something stupid that requires strength they simply do not have; that is clearly not the case when we talk about professional athletes. And yet, they still suffer these major season ending injuries. Research tells us that there is more of a connection between previous injury and additional injury than anything else. And yet over the past 5 years there have been an average of ~23 season ending ACL injuries sustained prior to the start of the regular season.

Fingers crossed that the players that you draft this season remain healthy and productive to win and be competitive in your league this season. If not, tune in every Tuesday night during the regular season for Dr. Mike’s injury round up for top pick up options to replace your injured star.

Dodson, C., Secrist, E., Bhat, S., Woods, D. and Deluca, P. (2016). Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in National Football League Athletes From 2010 to 2013. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 4(3), pp.1-5.