As promised, the long awaited preseason breakdown! This article has been difficult to write due to accuracy and constant changes. As the first game of the NFL season has already been played by the time of this publication, I can say these are the final numbers. At the end of the day, the NFL is a business, players are looking for jobs, and something as simple as an injury can derail those prospects. The intended purpose of this article is to identify types of injuries, breakdowns involving teams, years played, and when the injury occurred. At the beginning of training camp, at least 2,880 players vie to make an NFL roster. Of those 2,880 players, only 1,696 reach their goal. That’s only 59% of the players that make it. This doesn’t account for all those who were unfortunate enough to be injured, cutting short their chances even before they had a shot.
As of 9/8/17, 328 players have sustained some sort of injury during the preseason that has sidelined them to either miss significant time or season ending. Of those that had sustained significant injury, 211 went to IR, 117 went to IR with an injury settlement which meant that once healthy they could sign with another team. Out of those 117, 3 players have already resigned with different teams. To understand what an injury settlement means, please check out this article.
Out of the reported injuries, the knee was the most common body area for injuries. 66 players sustained injuries which includes 29 ACL tears with a scattering of general knee injuries and meniscus, other ligament damage, or patellar tendon tears. This was followed by 31 ankle injures, 29 thigh injuries mostly consisting of hamstring strains, and 23 shoulders consisting of generalized shoulder injuries. Following up the breakdown of injuries, 21 arm injuries consisting of arm, elbow, wrist, hand, finger; 15 head injuries consisting of concussions, 13 back injuries consisting of disc issues; 12 hip injuries consisting of groins, and finally 8 lower leg injuries with mostly fractures. The remaining injuries were 32 undisclosed and 59 unknown.
Some of the teams were hit harder than others with the injury bug. Leading the way with injuries was the Colts with 17. Following close behind with 16 was the Jaguars and with 15 was the 49ers and Ravens. Tied for 14 are the Texans and Panthers. This was followed by the Giants with 13; Titans, Jets, Chargers, and Bears with 12. The teams with the least amount of injuries were the Broncos, Vikings, and Raiders with 5 and Packers with 6. As this is a Bills blog, the Bills finished with 8 players injured. Most Bills players were waived with injury settlements which meant that had they not gotten injured, they may have been cut.
During this analysis of player injuries, the highest number of injuries by position was at WR with 60. This was followed by LB at 49, CB at 40, followed up by TE at 28, and S at 26. The least hurt position was K with 0 and P with 1. Considering that the highest injuries involved positions with a wide variety of high impact movements, this is not surprising. Overall, 162 Defensive players were injured, 162 Offensive players were injured, and 4 special teams injured.
It was found that if a player was new to the league, the chances of injury were drastically higher. Out of the years of service, 100 rookies were injured, 70 2nd yr players. 58 3rd yr players, and 37 4th year players. According to ESPN, the average NFL career is about 3.3 years. Out of the 328 players injured, 265 fell in that time frame which accounted for nearly 81% of injuries.
Finally, while there is little information on when the injuries occurred, I was able to find that as the preseason wore on, injures increased. Preseason game 1 brought 19 injuries. Game 2 brought 12, Game 3 brought 24, and Game 4 brought 31. There has been talks to reduce preseason games, reducing the last 2 games alone would reduce 54 injuries or 16.7% of injuries in the preseason. Many more occurred in practice or in an unknown, but NFL setting.
Going down the rabbit hole, out of the 29 ACL tears, 11 were rookies. Looking at other injuries, no other trends stood out that was alarming; a variety of hamstring, foot, ankle, and concussions. Out of 2nd year players, 6 had ACL tears, but no one other group of injuries lead the way. Looking at 3rd year players, 4 ACL tears occurred with no other significant injuries noted. So to recap, 21 of the 29 ACL injuries were sustained by players 3 years or younger in the league. This brings up the question, are these players coming into the league not physically prepared? Are they not adapting to the increased speed of game play? What is the root cause? I do not have the answers at this time.
Finally, out of the ACL tears, the 49ers and Patriots were hit hardest with 3 players lost for the season with ACL tears. There were several other teams with 2 which included the Bears, Dolphins, Ravens, Seahawks, and Texans. For 29 tears over the course of the preseason between 32 teams, 7 teams accounted for 18 of the 29 ACL tears which comes out to 62% of the tears this preseason alone. Once again, what are the factors behind this? Coaching? Field surface? Luck? Many different factors at play.
I know that this breakdown only scratches the surface of the injuries during the preseason. I know that further analysis can be inferred from the raw data. At the end of the article, the raw data will be available for you to analyze and process at your own leisure. If there are any questions, comments, or concerns, please message me and I will get back to you. Thank you for reading and please continue to come back for further information! Future articles will consist of revisiting the Kevin Everett cervical injury 10 years ago and injury breakdown following Bills-Jets game.