Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh
Injuries have always been a part of the NFL. In such a violent sport, there is no way to stop injuries from happening, it’s simply not even feasible. But lately, there have been more and more injuries than ever before, particularly to the ACL and lower half of the body. Is this just a coincidence? Or is there something else going on that has caused the recent spike in lower body injuries?
According to an article published back in August from USA Today, the number of ACL injuries in the 2004 pre-season was 13. In the 2012 pre-season, that number sky-rocked to 24. Therefore, we know that there has been a huge increase in lower-body injuries as of late. And as far as I can tell, there may be some possibilities as to what it is going on.
The first possibility is that the NFL declared open season on knees and lower-bodies in general when they put such an emphasis on hitting low instead of high. Think about it for a second. For those of you who haven’t yet seen Frontline’s latest documentary League of Denial, stop reading this right now and go spend the next two hours of your life watching it. It talks about the recent concussion debate that has taken center stage in every level of football, particularly the NFL. It states that there is a disease, named CTE, that has been found in 19 of 20 brains of former NFL players examined. CTE causes a person’s brain to basically rot, as they lose their memory and personality traits. Because this recent information has come out, former players formed a Class Action suit against the NFL, and it wasn’t until just recently that the suit was settled. That settlement, by the way, was worth $675 million, and included a clause that kept them free from any liability.
So what does this have to do with the recent spike in lower body injuries? Well, since all of this information began coming out on concussions, the league has made a point of emphasis on head targeting and hitting with the head in general. New rules are now in place to penalize any hit to the head whatsoever, and hefty fines are being handed out weekly for players who use their head to hit. Because of this, many players could simply be turning to hit low instead of high. Think about being an NFL players for a second. The game is so fast-paced, a defensive player has less than a second in most cases to decide how to tackle a player in the open field. So you could either go high, and risk getting a hefty fine if you come close to the head, or you can go low and avoid any confusion of which way you were tackling a player. The smart choice is the latter, and that’s why many defensive players are now going low instead of high. By making such an emphasis to avoid the head, the lower body is being targeted more than ever before. Just this past week quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler were lost because of a lower-body injury. Brian Hoyer was lost to an ACL tear earlier this season, and Randall Cobb will miss significant time because of a direct lower body hit, a hit that was completely legal.
The second possibility is one that is a little bit more alarming, and one that very well could be caused by the first one. In an article titled “Ten ways to fix the NFL’s growing concussion crisis,” CBSSports.com’s National NFL Insider Mike Freeman lists one of the reasons as “Test for HGH.” He made his case by saying “No performance enhancers, less chance players grow to 400 pounds and hit each other with atomic force.” Quite a statement, and one that does make quite a bit of sense. Roger Goodell has been trying to get HGH testing into the league for years, but the NFLPA has made it harder and harder to test for it. According to an article by CNBC.com’s Michael McCarthy, “HGH is a banned subatance that is far harder to detect than steroids and has been linked to diabetes, cancerous tumors and shortened life expectancy.”
If the NFL and NFLPA can’t reach an agreement on it, players will continue to get bigger and bigger. As they do, upper-body hits will happen less and less, and those big players will continue to go low, thus shifting the injury crisis in the NFL from concussions to knee and other lower-body injuries. The violent injuries are going to continue in the NFL, and it seems that there is only one way of slowing it down: Reach a deal with the NFLPA and begin testing for HGH. Level the playing field. If players aren’t freakishly huge, they won’t be able to use such freakish force against their opponents. We’ll continue to see players give 100% and have great football games, just less players getting hit in the head so violently that they need a stretcher to get off the field, like Jermichael Finely did this past weekeend in Cleveland. The NFLPA may not want it at this moment in time, but at least it will help make the game safer, something both sides desperately need right now.
-Alexander Crowe (On Twitter @AlexCrowe38)
Station Manager at 90.3 WRST FM-Oshkosh
WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS
I don’t know if you’ve been watching, but the fall of the great SEC in college football is happening before our eyes. For the first time in a while, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing the SEC dominate the top of the polls for a little bit, after the release of the first BCS polls this weekend. Sure, Alabama came out on top, but Florida State (ACC), Oregon (Pac-12) and Ohio State (B1G Ten) are right behind them at numbers 2, 3, and 4 respectively. The SEC still has good teams (Missouri, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M to name a few), it just isn’t dominating the entire top half of the polls like it has in the past. There couldn’t be a better time for the new 4-team playoff format coming up next year, with the top 4 teams in the BCS standings right now currently all undefeated. The future of college football looks bright, and I for one can’t wait to see what it holds.