By KATIE PARA
From the National Football League to college football, there is a vast climb in game-related injuries this season. Although there are new rules for the NFL, the contact sport remains brutal and injuries will continue to come as a package deal. Inevitable but not always permanent, injuries in football bring long-lasting effects to the players, families and teams.
Many football lovers struggle to see the purpose of the new rules. For some, football is meant to be rough and should live up to the definition of a contact sport. On the other hand, parents worry about the future of their children’s health and the long-term consequences of the strenuous sport. The dilemma seems to be finding a balance between both.
Every week there was at least one injured player and some were season ending. The severity of the injuries varies, but they can be extremely serious. From minor concessions to torn ligaments, football players are increasingly undergoing a wide range of downfalls but never lose their devotion to the game. Injuries continue to bring obstacles to the players that face them as well as their teammates and coaches.
One team dealing with quite a number of injuries hits close to home. The Atlanta Falcons was without its star receiver, Julio Jones, due to a right foot fracture that required a season ending procedure. Another crucial receiver, Roddy White, endured a high ankle sprain as well as a hamstring injury. He returned to play week 10 of the 2013/2014 season, although the Falcons were having a difficult season overall. Running back Steven Jackson missed five weeks with a hamstring injury but is active and expected to improve.
More Falcons injuries this past season include cornerback Robert Alford, who suffered an ankle injury; defensive tackle Corey Peters, who endured a shoulder injury; and tight end Chase Coffman, who dealt with a knee injury. The outcomes of these are obvious in the Falcons’ unpredicted 2-8 record.
Various teams were dealing with similar issues this past season and quarterbacks were taking a drastic hit across the NFL. In week 10 of the season, Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker suffered a Lisfranc injury and was out for the remainder of the season.
Quarterback injuries were a trend this past season with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out as well. When he was sacked by the Chicago Bears’ defense, Rodgers landed on his shoulder and suffered a broken clavicle. His return was questionable as tests were still being done before Thanksgiving.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler endured a torn groin in week seven followed by a high left ankle sprain during week 10. His return was unknown and remained on a week-to-week decision. Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub suffered an ankle sprain earlier in the past season and was indefinitely replaced by backup Case Keenum.
Continuing with the trend, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder dislocated his shoulder in the week 10 victory against the Washington Redskins and had a dreadful return in week 11’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was out for the season after a torn ACL in week seven. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick missed most of this past season after an early hamstring injury. Nick Foles was said to have had permanently replaced Vick’s starting position.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor underwent a knee sprain in week nine’s loss against the Philadelphia Eagles and was struggling to make a strong return after backup Matt McGloin started in week 11. Buffalo Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel returned week 10 after a knee sprain in week five.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden only made it to week three until he suffered a thumb injury. Backup Brian Hoyer then led the team to three straight wins and followed those with a torn ACL. Weeden returned to the Browns, to only lose two games before the team brought in Jason Campbell.
Injuries have no limits as Denver Broncos’ star quarterback Peyton Manning even came close to joining the club with a few ankle and concussion scares. Whether these numerous quarterback injuries occur due to pass protection issues or just plain bad luck, they were drastically popping up more often this past season.
Overall, injuries are taking the NFL and even college football by storm. New rules were enacted for the 2013 season, but the injuries might have been a surprise to many. Tacklers must keep contact with the crown of their helmet inside the tackle box. Peel-back blocks were illegal. Violations of player safety rules could have made potential fines and suspensions possible.
All players, excluding kickers and punters, were forced to wear thigh and knee pads. Late hits and facemask grabs were carefully watched factors by referees this season. These are just a few rules that should had have a considerable impact on the NFL this year, but were not preventing any injuries during the season.
Despite the new rules, the effects of this past season’s excessive injuries were easily noticed in a variety of team performances and records. Many of the records were shocking and not what football fans across the country expected to see this past season.
The Kansas City Chiefs maintained a perfect record until facing off with the Denver Broncos in week 11. The Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers only had two wins each after 11 weeks of the regular season. Injuries continued to play a major role in the success, or lack thereof, of every team’s season.
“When players are injured, it not only hurts the team’s line up, but also forces coaches to start players who may not be physically ready to take the field,” former Florida State University and Jacksonville State University kicker James Esco said. “This can also lead to injury for other players, as the new players on the field are not accustomed to their new role.”
Every team inflicted with an injury, minor or major, was confronted with many challenges in order to get back on track and focus on its common goal: to become Super Bowl champions. Learning to overcome injuries became quite a trend for practically every team this past season. The Falcons and Texans are two primarily talented teams that were unexpectedly disappointing.
2013 Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, appear to be going through a rebuild year as it was also failing to meet expectations. Due to a dislocated hip, the Ravens were missing its star tight end, Dennis Pitta, who hoped to return before the end of the season. Injuries play a significant role in these disappointments and constantly take any team by surprise.
Although injuries are not 100 percent avoidable, coaches frequently use prevention. Cold and hot tubs, as well as massage tubs, were often provided by football facilities and sometimes mandatory for all players.
“This helps to both loosen up the body, prevent soreness, and ultimately prevent injury,” Esco said. “Often times my coaches forced players to sit in ice tubs after practice in order to prevent injury. Rehab and injury prevention are everything.”
Not only did these sometimes serious injuries affect the teams and sport as a whole, but also the players themselves. Many of the injuries in football take a toll on a player’s physical and mental health. The hard tackles and rough hits bring short-term and long-term effects to the body, becoming a major concern.
Parents question whether or not they should allow their young children to sign up for the sport. NFL players have to decide how long they want to take the risk of serious injuries and stress on their bodies. The two prominently high-risk injuries are joint sprains or tears and concussions.
“General acute joint injuries, such as sprains, often either occur multiple times or are of a nature requiring surgery, such as the knee injury commonly seen in the media: ACL tears,” Kennesaw State University Athletic Injuries professor Dr. Laurie Tis said. “The long term consequences of repeat acute joint injury to the same joint or surgery, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is an exponentially accelerated risk of traumatic joint osteoarthritis.”
Before committing to play this contact sport, the players have to take into consideration the risks and dangers that can happen over time. Sprains are not always a small problem, and overuse brings more vulnerability for such injuries. Although not every player loses consciousness, concussions remain a burden.
“The problem with mild concussions is that on most assessment tools and through standard medical evaluation, such as an MRI or CT scan, the person seems to have no damage and seems to have symptoms clear quickly,” Tis said. “Through advanced imaging techniques and the use of biomarkers, the brain is showing damage and ongoing healing for as long as six weeks to six months, indicating a player should not return to sport.”
Unfortunately, these conclusions can initially seem moderate, but commonly result in more severe health issues down the road. NFL players must keep this and other health factors in mind throughout their careers.
This past season was a prime example that with or without new rules, injuries will persist. Outcomes of this are currently clear in the performances of several teams and in player’s long-term health.
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