On September 10th, the 2020 NFL season kicked off with a rematch of the 2019-2020 divisional playoff game between the Kanas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. It was a thrilling game that saw the Chiefs – the defending Super Bowl Champions – winning 34-20 in front of 17,000 physically distanced fans in Arrowhead Stadium.
Now after three weeks of action-packed football, players, coaches, team management, league officials and fans are noting the repercussions of a rushed (and unusual) preseason. It was in week two where the NFL saw a flurry of injuries. Not only was the sheer number of injuries alarming, but it was also who was getting injured – key impact players, stars, and bench players that are heavily relied upon throughout a game and season.
In a normal season, the usual slew of injuries in the first weeks would be blamed on the intense summer training sessions of training camp, and the seemingly meaningless preseason grind. But now there is growing concern that players and teams have not had enough time to prepare for the demands of a 17 week season.
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Is it unreasonable to suggest this – that we may have rushed professionals back too soon? Many may turn a blind eye, pointing to the fact that the NFL and it’s entertainment value is back – and that is more important. But what many may not realize is that the players taking the field each week – the stars, the grinders, the bench players – are risking their health and futures. So, this recent slew of injuries is of much concern for the individuals – physically, mentally, financially – and the league. As it does have an impact on their relationship with their employees – the players and staff.
While we may see just names on an injury report (maybe we have an emotional connection with them, “our favourite player”) with the expected time of return – if everything goes well with no setbacks – what isn’t revealed are the ‘players’ working in the background to get them back into the game. The physiotherapists, trainers, doctors, surgeons, family, friends and teammates. Injuries big or small are serious.
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Take the week two injury report from Sunday; the San Francisco 49ers lost QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Pro Bowl defender Nick Bosa and RB Raheem Mostert. Not to mention a handful of other injuries. That’s just one team. The New York Giants and Carolina Panthers lost their star running backs Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey to a torn ACL and ankle injury respectively. The Denver Broncos lost starting QB Drew Lock with a rotator cuff strain, and then one of their top wide receivers Courtland Sutton for the remainder of the season. Those are just a few of the injuries that occurred in week two. Not only do many of these injuries put into question a team’s season, but they have a significant impact on the player, in all areas of life.
Now, let’s hit pause for one moment. American football is a tough and hard sport. The players, coaches and staff recognize that – it is a risk they all understand and undertake. However, that does not justify us turning a blind eye to what is occurring. We are meant to observe and analyze what has occurred (and occurring) and question what can (and needs) to be done better.
A common theme coming out of this past week is the realization of just how important summer training camp sessions and preseason are for teams. Despite how redundant and mundane they may feel for fans, coaches and even some players. These sessions are a time early in the year when teams can assess and plan the season. Assessing both the players and the team as a whole. With that be shortened or rushed, it can have a serious impact on the team and player.
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This season, there were no organized team activities and minicamps. Placing greater stress on the players to manage and coordinate their training schedules. Granted, they are professionals but it also a team sport and not an individual one. And coming out of restrictions, teams and players were fast-tracked through training camps and into full-blown games.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in the NFL. In the 2011 season, after the NFL came out of a lockdown, injuries increased by 25 percent (as noted by NFLPA president and Browns center J.C. Tretter). With musculoskeletal injuries like ligament tears and muscle strains, increasing significantly. Obviously, when it comes to the manifestation of an injury, many factors come into play – new equipment, the playing field and turf, ‘freak’ collisions’, but also player preparation. And what needs to be understood, is that it is the league’s job to set their employees up for success – for the benefit of the NFL and the player. It isn’t good for the game to have the top players out with injuries, and it certainly isn’t good for the player’s health.
Concern over the NFL’s recent run of injuries September 28, 2020