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August 29, 2013

This summer, fan excitement for the kickoff of the 2013 NFL season has been tempered and plagued by a stream of season-ending injuries. A majority of these injuries have been ACL tears, and a large number of the impacted players are those expected to play in starting lineups across the league this fall. Coverage of these injuries seems to indicate players are “dropping like flies” in unprecedented fashion. Analysts have even gone so far as to accuse the players of showing up to training camp out of shape. But is this actually the case, or is the public simply more aware of these injuries because more star or high-profile players seem to be affected than in previous years?

Edgeworth Economics recently released an analysis  discussing injury data from the NFL Injury Surveillance System (ISS) for Edgeworth’s client the NFL Players Association. The analysis sheds light on whether this preseason has been particularly dreadful in terms of player health or just another August in the National Football League.

Edgeworth Partner and Pasadena Office Director Dr. Jesse David and his team examined trends in season-ending injuries occurring in the preseason by tallying the number of injuries that occurred in NFL preseasons dating back to 2004 (consisting of official team activities, training camp, and four preseason games for each team). The injuries were then restricted to those that sidelined a player 140 days or more, or 20 weeks – the figure that guarantees a player will miss the entire regular season at minimum. The results were as follows:

Similar to Edgeworth’s study of the regular 16-game season, this study showed that injuries in the NFL preseason have been steadily climbing since 2004. With an average of 62.4 season-ending injuries occurring in a preseason – 15.6 a week – the preseason has always been a dangerous time for NFL players. This could be explained by the sweltering summer weather, grueling two-a-days, or even rosters larger than the 53-man limit allotted during the regular season. The larger roster plays a part because typically during the preseason, each team carries around 80 players, all of whom are vying to make the cut and earn a spot on the depth chart, which could generate more intense competition within squads during practice and scrimmages.

Then again, this year’s preseason has not been abnormal, at least concerning the frequency of severe injuries, nor has the concentration of ACL tears and injuries varied dramatically. Of all 562 preseason injuries with 140+ days missed since 2004, 137, or 24% have been ACL injuries. This remained much the same this past year. Therefore, it would seem the only difference this NFL season is neither the frequency nor type of injuries, but the names new and old that we will see take the field come September 5th. 

The only questions left to ask is: are YOU ready for some football?

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