Noted fitness expert Mackie Shilstone is writing about injuries in the NFL this season and will take a look at the injury report for the New Orleans Saints and their opponent each week.
Have you ever made or heard the comment, "that person has great depth," implying extensive and detailed study or knowledge? The dictionary defines the word "depth" in one category as "the distance from the nearest to the farthest point (where) something happens." In the NFL, depth can be defined as the strength of a team's reserve of substitute players.
Last Sunday in the Saints' victory over the Bucs, depth was one of the keys to the Saints' win. Backup tight end Dave Thomas filled the void left with the ankle injury to Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. NOLA.com|Times-Picayune columnist Mike Triplett commented in his last Monday column "First and 10," that "once again the Saints proved that their offense is deep and versatile enough to survive the loss of any one playmaker- even someone as critical as Graham."
Wide receiver Lance Moore returned to action last week from a hamstring injury (not sure he is completely out of the woods) to catch nine passes for 121 yards. However, Saints receiver Joe Morgan left the game and was taken to the hospital with an unknown chest injury. Morgan was later discharged and returned home on the team charter.
In a surveillance report of NFL injuries analyzed by FootballOutsider.com and reported in 2009 by The New York Times, a metric - history adjusted games lost - accrued by each NFL team over eight years, suggested some interesting points of reference.
Injuries, or their absence, have a drastic effect on a team's success.
A superstar is worth 6-7 times as much as a reserve.
The injury report does not matter (coaches manipulate the injury report).
Age is mitigated by the survivor effect (average age of a team of starters has no relationship to the injury rate of those starters).
Offensive injuries are more significant than defensive ones.
Injuries to the starting halfback do not effect the running game (a la Reggie Bush when he was a Saint).
Hamstring injuries linger.
Player turnover has little relationship to a team's health.
Look at what happened last Sunday in NFL games relative to depth of reserves. Green Bay lost safety Charles Woodson to a broken collarbone for six weeks. Green Bay went on to triumph over the Rams. In Washington, tight end Fred Davis was lost for the season with an Achilles tendon injury in the Redskins; loss to the Giants. As suggested in a previous column, the Chargers placed kicker Nate Kaeding on injured reserve, and he may be released when healthy, as a result of a groin injury.
The point here is that there always will be players to fill in for an injured player. However, the skill set, experience or lack of, along with the replacement's own health history will determine the potential for said player to be an asset or liability to his team.
Using my interns from the Department of Kinesiology at Southeastern Louisiana University, we performed our own midseason injury surveillance analysis through week 7 in the NFL. The assumption was that we would use each Wednesday, as a cutoff point for injury tracking, and that we would only count one injury per week for each injured player. In addition, one or more players with a specific injury, such as the hamstring, may account for multiple appearances on the team's ongoing weekly injury report card. In other words, they can account for a re-occurring injury.
I think you will start to see how the dynamics of the NFL game such as game conditions, playing surface, time of game, collisions, and whether the team is playing at home or away can all contribute to a unique damage control medical model dictating specialized care and treatment for the team to remain competitive.
In a comparison of the Saints and their Sunday night opponent the Denver Broncos, both teams seem to have a common injury bond - the ankle injury.
Over the last seven weeks four Saints players were noted on the Saints' injury report with "ankle" representing eight notations, while the Broncos have only two players noted with "ankle" representing six notations. When you examine the extent of the ankle injuries, it appears that on the Broncos' side cornerback Chris Harris accounted for all but one of the six ankle injury designations, while on the Saints' roster defensive end Turk McBride owned five of the eight ankle injury designations. Oddly enough, quarterback Drew Brees showed up only one week with an ankle injury designation. He certainly has not been hampered by said designation.
Could this notation have been a coaching ploy to play with the minds of the next Saints opponent?
One fact that stands out in our analysis is that as injuries go up wins go down - the last man standing effect.
As stated in a previous column, teams must also report the injured player's status for the next game, such a "questionable, doubtful, probable, or out." Based on seven weeks of injury filings, which could include the same player noted with the same injury on multiple weeks, the Jets had 79 "probable notations," while the Patriots had 67 "questionable notations."
At the end of week seven, the top three injury designations in the NFL are "knee," with 373 notations, "ankle" with 218 notations, and "hamstring" with 188 notations. For instance, 36 percent of the Cardinals' injury notations are related to the knee, while 55 percent of the Panthers' injury notations are to the knee and shoulder.
Based on what I am seeing with respect the effect of the injury bug and the relative parity in the NFL based on the won-loss records, even with the Saints' poor start, they are definitely in the hunt as long as they can continue to maintain their ability keep the starters on the field.
As of Wednesday, the Saints only reported that tight end Daniel Graham did not practice, while it is good to see that linebacker David Hawthorne, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury since week 4, was listed as "limited" in practice, as opposed to being "out." While wide receiver Joe Morgan was "limited" in practice Wednesday coming off that chest injury against the Bucs that sent him to the hospital during the game the Saints ruled him out Thursday.
The Broncos seem to be intact to this point with respect to limitations to their injured players. Must be the thin air in Denver.