Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive ... I think you know the rest of the description of Superman. Many fans would attribute this Superman description to that of an NFL player. After all, today's NFL player is bigger, faster, and stronger than ever. In 2006, there were more than 500 players on preseason NFL rosters who weighed more than 300 pounds, so at least part of the equation is accurate.

If I told you that there was a collision involving multiple parties in which some were injured and required medical attention, you might think I was referring to an auto accident. But the impact of tackling in pro football does, in fact, represent an intended accident with each play. And there are more than 100 of these collisions in a typical game.

The effects of these continued impacts to the human body can be devastating over the course of a season, as well, as an NFL career. According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was quoted in 2011 on a conference call to San Diego Charger season-ticket holders, "if a player makes an opening day roster, his career is very close to six years." But what is he like after those six years of contact?

Just last week against those same Chargers, four New Orleans Saints players sat out with injuries. One was Saints wide receiver Lance Moore, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Here is what interim Saints coach, Aaron Kromer had to say last week in The Times-Picayune Sunday sports section about Saints wide receivers sitting out with injuries so far this year. "It has become pretty routine this season to be down at least one receiver."

As I told you last week, injuries can have a big impact on games. Just look at what Coach Kromer said about Moore's absence last week. "We will change some formations and change some plays that will enable us to use what we have." From my perspective, having prepared hundreds of NFL players for the grueling full-go season, train like you fight and fight like you train. Or, should I have said, "play." Sometimes I mix up my pro boxing work with the NFL mind-set.

Let's take advantage of this bye week to examine just what the physics of American football, specifically the NFL style of play, is all about. Of course, you should be able to extrapolate what I tell you down to smallest competitors.

Back in December 2009, Popular Mechanics had an interesting article called "Football Physics: Anatomy of a hit." Based on the research of Timothy Gay, a physics professor at the University of Nebraska, and author of the book, "The Physics of Football," a typical 5-foot-9 defensive back, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds can generate up to 1,600 pounds of tackling force upon impact with the ball carrier.

From research, the knee's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can withstand roughly 500 force pounds of pressure. However, a side impact or an evasive maneuver (even without contact) can cause an ACL tear under less stressful conditions. It all comes down to the angle of attack.

Next, we must consider the fact that the type of playing surface is also a factor. Football is played on grass or synthetic turf, which has had multiple generations of advancement. FieldTurf, which is made of polyethylene fibers over a mix of sand and rubber particles, is used by 21 of the 32 NFL teams for either practice or playing fields. According to a Sept. 14 news report from Reuters Health, "a new study finds that National Football League players suffered more knee and ankle injuries when they played on FieldTurf over the past decade." The lead study author, Dr. Elliott Hershman, chairman of the NFL Injury and Safety Panel stated, "I think the main messages here are that different surfaces behave differently, and that injury rates can be different on different surfaces."

The Popular Mechanics story described how the type of field surface is measured in terms of shock absorbency by dropping an object the size of a human head and neck ( 20 square inches and 20 pounds) from 2 feet above the respective surface. The metric is called G-Max.

A low G-Max absorbs more energy than a player. Grass has a G-Max of 60, while synthetic turf (not sure which type) has a G-Max of 120. The hardest surface is frozen grass.

I think you will recall from my last column that on average up to week 10 of the NFL season, teams are without 2.7 players during the regular season due to the physics of football and the anatomy of a hit, or should I say multiple hits, which may cause short- and long-term injures.

In comparison, you can expect to see an injury in pro hockey for every 1,000 man hours of on-ice time either in training or competition. This statistic means that if you put 25 players on the ice for 1 hour that equals 25 man hours. Typical practices can be 2-3 hours, so you can see the exponential movement of one of the 25 players heading toward an injury. Of those hockey injuries, roughly 30 percent are the result of non-contact injuries mostly coming from poorly sharpened skates, poorly manicured ice by the Zamboni operator, or fatigue-related injuries such as groin strains.

One thing that caught my attention in recently published Saints reports was that for two weeks in a row (starting the week leading up to the Packers game), the Saints have practiced without pads. Typically, this option is used when trying to keep the players fresh and the legs "alive." The other reason can be delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which can hit between 48-72 hours after a heavy training schedule or traumatic event. The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Saints, even though around week 10 would have been ideal.

In last week's win over the Chargers, Saints cornerback Jabari Greer left in the second quarter with a hip injury and did not return to action. Held over from last week are the hamstring injuries to linebacker David Hawthorne and wide receiver Lance Moore. If you recall from last week's column, hamstring injuries can be one of the most problematic in the NFL based on a protracted healing time. The key, using innovative therapy techniques, is to reduce the scaring (fibrotic tissue), which can cause the hamstring muscles to be less flexible, and therefore increase the potential for re-injury.

Another newer, mildly controversial healing option that is usually administered by an orthopedic surgeon, is called Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP). While the literature is less than complete on its use with athletes recovering from injury, it has been used with the goal of accelerating healing time. The physician draws a small amount of blood from the patient. The blood is spun down to capture the platelets, growth factors and new cells, which are then injected back into the target site to further stimulate the healing process.

According to orthopedic surgeon Michael McNulty, who did his residency training under orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., "there is not a lot of high level evidence as of yet on PRP. On a theroretical basis PRP appears to be a promising therapy for muscle and tendon injuries."

Until next week, let's wish all those competitors on both sides of the NFL ball a successful, injury-free career. At least the first part can come true.

Mackie Spotlight

EJGH’s very own Mackie Shilstone, Executive Director of the Fitness Principle, is in New York working with Serena Williams as she goes for another U.S. Open title. As Williams’s Fitness Coach, Mackie will be part of the team preparing her for matches throughout the tournament. To give everyone a behind-the-scenes look at how Williams prepares for every opponent, Mackie is writing a daily postcard for detailing all the day’s happenings. Check back daily for updates. 8/22/13
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