Since Sunday’s post, every NFL team has played one preseason game. Depending on which fan base you speak to, it has either been a fantastic or horrible preseason. I’m willing to wager that those that rate their team’s preseason as horrible may be due to injury. If you’ve been following Twitter, ESPN, or local news, there’s been numerous reports about the significant injuries that have possibly derailed the regular season before it has even begun.
I have previously mentioned that I am focusing this blog on Buffalo Bills injuries. However, as I am a Physical Therapist, this allows me to expand as I wish into other areas of interest. Since the beginning of the preseason, I have been tracking nearly every injury that has occurred in camps around the NFL. Injuries that I deem worth tracking are ones that force a player to miss extended time, season ending, or placed on injured reserve. For my analysis, these injuries must have occurred during the preseason. Those that had off season injuries/surgeries or injuries from last year that are still recovering are not included in this analysis. This allows for a more specific time frame to be assessed. As of publication, I fully expect these numbers will change. Players will continue to get injured, waived, and reach injury settlements. My goal with this article is to highlight areas of interest and concern.
Of what has been publicly reported so far, there has been 119 players that have been either placed on injury reserve or expected to miss significant time. Of those 119 players, 26 have been released with injury settlements, allowing them to heal on their own time, get compensated, and seek out opportunities with other teams once they are cleared. If you would like additional information about the waived/injured status and process of injury settlements, please check out this article. Most of these injuries consist of hamstring pulls, ankle sprains, and unknown/undisclosed injuries. The most unique injuries of this group are a bruised lung and a Jones fracture, the same type of foot injury that sent Sammy Watkins packing to the Rams.
Of the 93 remaining players, 16 of these players have not been placed on injured reserve. These injuries consist of rather significant injuries consisting of various fractures and surgeries. These are injuries that the teams has deemed not appropriate to use the designated to return tag on injury reserve. If they used this tag, this would prevent the player from being cleared to play until at least Week 8. Considering that all NFL teams do not have to cut down rosters to 53 until September 2nd, there is incentive to allow these players to rehab and have them ready by Week 1.
This leaves 77 players whose seasons have ended before they even began. Think about that for a second, you have nearly a full roster and a half of NFL caliber players sitting on the sidelines recovering from injuries. Remember, the NFL has only played one preseason game so far. There are 32 teams in the NFL of 53 players on each active roster equating to 1,696 players. With the already injured players, you could add a 33rd team without difficulty if these players were healthy. Most of these teams have been in camp for only 3 weeks. While that is sinking in, I will continue to break down the injuries.
One of the highlighted injuries we see too often is ACL tears. Highlights of the mechanism of injury have been previously highlighted in my Reggie Ragland post. Already, we have seen 18 ACL tears and this is not stopping. Of all of the tears, 16 have been reported as ACL only, 1 reported as ACL, MCL, and 1 reported as ACL, MCL, PCL. Looking back at the past two years of training camp, 2016 training camp totals saw 16 ACL tears and 2015 training camp totals saw 15 ACL tears. At this rate, it would realistic to see the final number for this preseason reach the mid 20’s, possibly even equal the past two years combined. Of the 18 tears, 11 are defensive players, 5 are offensive players, and 1 special teams player.
One area that has improved so far is Achilles’ tears. To date, there have been 3 Achilles’ tears, compared to 6 in 2016 and 7 in 2015. Of the Achilles’ tears, 2 are defensive players, 1 is offensive. Breaking down the rest of the injuries briefly, several injuries of concern consist of spinal injuries which include lumbar and cervical complaints. Other injuries include torn hamstrings, pectoral tears, sports hernias, wrist dislocation/fractures, concussion, or undisclosed.
This is just a small sample size of what we as fans are seeing. There may be even more that have not been publicly disclosed yet or details still emerging. The NFL still has just over 3 weeks until Week 1 kickoff. I can tell you with the utmost certainty that these types of injuries will continue to occur. I expect some types of these injuries to decline as players continue to improve their conditioning and skills required for their position. I also expect these injuries to occur occasionally at practice and but with a higher frequency in preseason games. We have already seen stars such as Ryan Tannehill go down for the season during practice. I expect to see several other bigger name players go down for some time. Assume that players on the roster bubble to be the bulk of the serious injuries that remain. Several veterans have been injured, but of the 119 players injured so far, 98 of these players have 3 years or less NFL experience, which is the typical length of an NFL career.
Finally, I will take a brief look at teams who have been hit hard by the injury bug versus those that have mostly escaped major injury. Of the 32 teams, several have been hit quite hard. Leading the count with 8 players significantly injured or on IR are the 49ers, Dolphins, and Ravens. Following behind with 7 players are the Colts, Jets and Jaguars. Next with 5 players are the Chargers, Chiefs, Lions, and Redskins. The rest of the teams have 4 or less on IR. Two teams that I want to specifically highlight are the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills have only had 1 player be placed on injury reserve so far; Keith Towbridge with a foot injury. As much as I hate to state this, the New England Patriots are the only team that I have found to not have anyone seriously injured during this year’s training camp.
While I am a Physical Therapist and could continue to go down the rabbit hole with these injuries, I will save my commentary for future blog posts. Take these numbers for what they’re worth. Football is a rough sport, these statistics prove it. I would like to give credit to NFL Trade Rumors, Spotrac, and ESPN for providing the raw data and updates necessary for this post. As a fan and professional, I hope that the injuries for the Bills continue to occur at a minimum, allowing them to go into the season with the depth required to be successful. Continue to check back for future posts updating these stats along with further analysis of specific injuries.