Schultz: What can NFL teams do to mitigate injuries?

Chris Schultz
1/9/2013 10:10:58 AM
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According to DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players' Association, there were 4,500 injuries in the NFL last year. That is a lot of injuries, especially when you consider there are about 1,800 football players, including practice rosters. That's two and a half injuries per player.

In this sport, you're going to get hurt, it's just a matter of time. The two most recent issues with regards to injuries involve Robert Griffin III. Was his situation handled properly? And did the surface at FedEx Field in Washington contribute to the injury?

What surprises me with Griffin III is, if you look at the visual of the Baltimore game, you can tell there was a significant problem at the moment of impact between Griffin and the tackler. No doctor, no questions, just the fact that the human leg can not bend that way. It's impossible. Yes, as a truly superior athlete and being young, perhaps the collision could be mitigated but we have all seen it 10, maybe 15 times and a conclusion can be made of serious injury right at that moment.

When you have been involved in football for a lifetime, you become desensitized to injury, even the graphic ones. The first time I saw a broken leg in my playing days at the University of Arizona, I was overwhelmed. By the time I retired from football and now if I see an injury on TV, it has no emotional effect.

Having said that, the moment that Griffin III was hit, I knew it was serious. Again, let's stick with logic and reality here. The human body and all its related appendages can not bend and twist certain angles and certain degrees. It just can't because we are all the same in bone, ligament and cartilage structure. It was so obvious to me and many others that this was serious.

Did the Redskins do the right thing? Not even close. All levels, from player to coach to management to doctor and trainer did not take control in what was most important, a football career. Now, less than four days after the season, it has been decided that reconstructive surgery is needed? Now? Not after the game, after seeing what happened?

Griffin III will get a new knee and will regain that athletic burst and confidence because of modern medicine and training, excellent rehab, youth and his own determination. Still, this is his second surgery, including university football and he just finished his rookie year.

Did the surface of FedEx Field contribute? I'm not sure. Field turf is a step forward in playing surfaces but, as the statistics begin to come in, the number of injuries is not necessarily down, it's more of different types of injuries. Yet, it's an upgrade from Astro Turf, which wore bodies out in the most obvious ways.

To this day, I suggest grass fields as it is a natural surface for a biological body. But my second suggestion is to re-sod the field at mid-season. First the teams and league can afford it and second, it can be done extremely efficiently in a short period of time.

Football is huge in the United States; bigger and more intense than hockey is here. Universities, high schools, kids of all ages should play games in NFL stadiums. It is thrilling for those involved and an athletic life moment you will never forget. But it wears a grass field out so the field has to be replaced. It can be done, as it is no longer replaced square by square, more block by block.

4,500 injuries in one football season involving 1,800 players will remain a consistency. But what teams can control is the ability to look at the injury initially and use that visual element as a conclusive moment as well as continue to research and invest in the ultimate playing surface.

Robert Griffin III (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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