Several weeks ago I quoted a reference from the NFL's injury surveillance system, as reported in the May 28, 2009, edition of The New York Times, "Fast Forward; Injury Statistics Don't Add Up When Calculating Longer Season's Toll." The study found that the high point of players missing games was in Week 10, when an average of a little more than three players per team were out with injuries.
I thought we needed to give this reference some perspective to just how the global injury rate in the NFL over the last two seasons might compare to "wounds not mortal" taken from "The Navy Department Library," which has a reference to "principle wars in which the United States participated with U.S. personnel serving."
Let's be quite clear. There is not now, nor will there ever be any comparison to our brave soldiers, who have either lost their lives or been injured in the line of duty to that of injuries sustained by players in the NFL. However, it is worth examining.
During the Revolutionary War (1775-1782), there were 6,188 non-mortal wounds, while in the War of 1812 (1812-1815) there were 4,505 similar wounds. During the Mexican War (1846-1848) 4,152 wounds were sustained and fast forward over multiple wars to the first Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), the U.S. saw 467 wounds that were not mortal.
The Aug. 7, 2012, issue of the Washington Post had a story, "Concussions in the NFL Down from Last Season Because of Kickoff Rule Change," in which Edgewood Economics (study facilitators) also examined total NFL injuries from the 2010 and 2011 NFL seasons. According to the study, "NFL players suffered a total of 4,493 injuries last season (2011), up from 3,191 injuries in the 2010 season," for a total over two seasons of 7,684 NFL injuries.
I think you get my point. The NFL can be a brutal game. The Post article went on to say, "major injuries, defined as those that sidelined a player for at least three weeks, were up only slightly last season to 641, two more than in 2010. But moderate injuries, which forced a player out for one to three weeks, increased from 633 in 2010 to 739 last season." Jesse David, a statistician and economist, who is a senior vice president at Edgeworth, was quoted as saying, "I think the overall big picture is that injuries continue to increase, including significant injuries."
In the Monday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints defensive end Junior Galette injured his ankle in the first half and did not play in the second half. X-rays on his ankle were negative. Ankle injuries can often lead to future knee problems, if they are high ankle sprains. Therefore, I sought a second opinion on Galette's ankle injury from Field Ogden, an orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in foot and ankle surgery. "If the X-rays are negative (as was the case with Galette's ankle), it's probably not a high ankle sprain. It's definitely not a fracture," Ogden said.
Starting right tackle Zach Strief left the game in the third quarter with a groin strain. Based on his high body weight, we will need to keep and eye on Strief's injury, since next to hamstring injuries, groin strains can be quite problematic with a protracted recovery process. And, let's not forget that going into this game, the Saints had lost running back Darren Sproles indefinitely to a broken hand.
You might also recall in my last column that I suggested that due to the Eagles' extensive injuries to their offensive line, that a frontal assault by the Saints would cause trouble for their quarterback, Michael Vick. Vick was sacked seven times. It got to a point where the Saints had more people in the Eagles' backfield at the ball snap than Philadelphia did.
With injuries this season starting to mount across the board, we need to examine options for players to protect their ability to continue to earn a living after sustaining a career ending injury. It appears disability policies are alive and well for both NFL teams, who must protect their investment in a player who has a guaranteed contract (you are paid whether or not you play) and the players' need for a continued revenue stream.
According to Mark Peterson, an insurance underwriter at Petersen International Underwriters in Valencia, Calif., and an expert in complex disability policies, "many NFL players can obtain a career-ending disability plan which would cover them should they encounter an injury or illness which prevents them from ever being able to play professional football. How much a player might be compensated through a disability policy, "depends on a player's current contract at the time of the career-ending injury, their potential to renegotiate a larger contract, (if they had not been injured), and their age at the time of the injury," Petersen said. Permanent total disability pays out as a single lump sum amount. Benefit amounts typically can range from $500,000 to $20 million.
Some teams may insure their players against injury. Often times if the player has a fully guaranteed contract then the team may very well insure this. "Keep in mind that the team may be able to get out of a player's contract, if the player is not healthy enough to make the team cut come Aug. 1," Petersen said.
So what would constitute a permanent career-ending injury? Tim Finney, an orthopedic surgeon who was Saints' longtime physician, said "a catastrophic neurological injury to the spine or neck, such as the one that befell New England Patriots player Darryl Stingley years ago would be one example, while a career-threatening injury would be like a major knee injury with multiple torn ligaments (anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, lateral collateral ligament, and medial collateral ligament)."
Using my college interns, we looked at the injury rates of the Saints and the Falcons, who the Saints play Sunday at home in the Superdome. We noted every individual injury over the last nine weeks of this season. We then looked at how long each injury notation was carried up through week 9, which would give an indication of the extent of the injury situation. You can also get a fairly clear picture, as to how many players are playing hurt, even when they return to action.
The Falcons have 30 individual injuries to players with 55 notations carried forward to this point. As stated weeks ago in my column, the hamstring injury has been a problem injury for the Falcons with four players succumbing. Yet they have 10 hamstring injury notations, which means the hamstring injury takes longer to heal.
The Falcons have also been clipped by knee, thigh, groin, and shoulder injuries such that there are 14 individual injury notations in these categories. However, there 24 total injury notations. What this fact tells me, based on the 8-0 start is that the Falcons have not lost much when players were playing hurt, or when replacement players were called into action. As the season wears on, I suspect their unblemished record will fall. You can only play hurt for a short period of time despite cortisone and anti-inflammatory medications, as pain and inflammation moderators.
On the Saints' side, they have 24 single injury notations, with 42 total injury notations to date. The knee and ankle represent the highest single and total notations. However, just two hamstring injuries have been carried over the last nine weeks with seven notations, once again proving my point that the hamstring is one of the most debilitating injuries in the NFL.
Based on the 2012 NFL weekly injury reports as of week 9, I would say that the Falcons are more beat up than are the Saints.
As of this Wednesday's practice, the Falcons did not practice four players (Cone, Mitchell, Snelling, and Weatherspoon), while five players were limited in practice (Babineaux, hamstring; Baker,ankle; Douglas,ankle; Jerry, knee, Samuel, hip; and Abraham, elbow). The hip injury to Asante Samuel may very well impede his turning ability if he plays.
The Saints held out Sproles, Roby, Galete, and Strief from Wednesday's practice and on Friday all four were ruled out for Sunday's game. Linebacker David Hawthorne, who has been hampered with a hamstring injury since week 4 was listed as "full participation in practice." As of week 10, the Saints are in fairly decent condition as it pertains to damage control in the NFL. Let's hope it stays that way since the amount of damage a team sustains has a dramatic effect on its won-loss record. And the Saints are still climbing out of that hole.