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Knee Injuries in the NFL

by Zamst

Another set of NFL preseason games are in the books and they go hand in hand with a laundry list of injuries suffered by some of the most promising players for the 2014 season.  Most recently, Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams suffered a devastating injury to his left knee, the same knee that knocked him out of the 2013 season.  Bradford is no rookie to injury, suffering from a clavicle fracture (2009), a high ankle sprain (2011), left ACL tear (2013), and most recently a re-tearing his left ACL this past Saturday against the Cleveland Browns.

From my personal experience in the Athletic Training field, football places extreme stress on the body.  The biomechanics and high forces involved with every play drastically increase the chances of injury both contact & non-contact, especially with knee injuries.  In the past few years, noticing the increase of ACL injuries, ESPN began to track knee injuries yielding these numbers:

Knee Injuries Resulting in IR Placement

Season Through Week 15


2013 110 110
2012 99 121
2011 82 93
Source: ESPN Stats & Information

So what’s causing the increase of knee injuries? Speculation is pointing at the focus on eliminating helmet-to-helmet contact which sometimes prompts defenders to direct their contact to the lower body of their opponent. Yet, some would also note an increase of non-contact ACL injuries. Since the NFL has new limitations for off-season football work, it has left players less conditioned when training camp arrives.  Both cardiovascular and muscle strength are important, but some  have suggested that football activities place unique stress to the body, leaving muscles, tendons, and ligaments more vulnerable to injury when not exposed to football movements over extended periods of time.

It is entirely possible that there are other reasons behind the spike in ACL/knee injuries, but time will tell as more data is collected and studies conducted as the 2014 season progresses.

Jessica Thomas MS, ATC, CHC

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