Will the injury issue continue to haunt the NFL?

Every year, as we enter a new football season, there are always a variety of issues that come along. One issue that has been trending over the past five seasons, is the continuous increase in the rate of injuries suffered by players. This has become a pressing issue for the National Football League (NFL), seeing some of the brightest stars are hitting injury lists more frequently. The magnitude of these injuries has become significantly severe as well as the league’s massive spike in ACL tears, which continues to be more common year after year.

The upward trend of injuries has already affected a number of teams around the league, headlined by Steelers’ reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, Seahawks three-time Pro Bowl selection safety Jamal Adams and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. After only one week of regular season action, 17 teams saw at least one of their players go down with an injury and not return to the game.

Adams, who suffered a torn quadriceps tendon and injured knee, is expected to undergo surgery in the upcoming days and will miss the rest of the season.
Watt and Prescott were both placed on the Injured Reserve list, leaving them both out at least four weeks.

Watt tore his pectoral muscle during the final 16 seconds of the fourth quarter in the Steelers overtime win against division rival Cincinnati Bengals. It was looking like the start of another dominant season for the pass rusher, who picked up right where he left off after last season, when he tied the all time single-season sack record.

Prescott suffered a Bennett fracture (a fracture plus dislocation of the Metacarpal bone at the base of the thumb) in his right hand during the Cowboys loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is expected to sideline him for 6-8 weeks. He has already undergone surgery to repair his thumb and is expected to make a full return.

The rising number of injuries has raised a number of questions in the NFL, with speculation on if there is something wrong with improper equipment.

The severity of injuries has steadily increased,especially the number of ACL tears. During the 2020 and 2021 seasons alone, the number of players who tore their ACL increased from 51 to 71. These injuries could could be the result of unsafe protocols set by the NFL, or from other variables, such as field conditions and weather.

Players already have to manage keeping themselves in good condition to be on the field, as well as worry about if the field being played on is in suitable shape to prevent any injuries caused by non-contact plays. With the natural physical demands of professional football, injuries are bound to happen, but this present alarming rate raises concerns on the overall outlook of the sport’s safety and sustainability.