NEWS

NFL memo: Knee injuries equal to or below rate of past two seasons

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

According to an internal memo obtained by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, knee injuries are equal to or below levels from the past two seasons.

The rate of knee injuries came into question Wednesday when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said workout limits are causing a rise in injuries, according to The Associated Press.

"I'm in favor of total preparation for the players for the season," Belichick said during a conference call with Buffalo reporters. "And I think that's been changed significantly and, I would say, not necessarily for the better when you look at the injury numbers."

Belichick said players are less prepared because of the limits placed on offseason workouts -- including training camp -- that were negotiated during the collective bargaining agreement in August 2011.

However, the memo from Jeff Pash, the NFL's executive vice president and general counsel, to Health and Safety Advisory Committee chairman Dr. John York said:


* Through the preseason and first 13 weeks of the regular season, there have been a total of 30 ACL injuries in games. This is below the lowest number in the past five seasons, and compares to 39 in 2012, 35 in 2011, 37 in 2010, and 31 in 2009.


* Through the preseason and first 13 weeks of the season, there have been a total of 89 MCL injuries in games. This is above the comparable figure for 2012 (74 injuries) but equal to or below the comparable figures for 2011 (106 injuries), 2010 (89 injuries), and 2009 (103 injuries).


* In 2013, approximately 68 percent of ACL injuries involved contact with another player, while 32 percent were noncontact injuries. The percentage of ACL injuries involving contact with another player in the four previous seasons ranged from 67 percent in 2009 to 55 percent in 2012.


* Those injuries that involved contact with another player would appear to be most likely influenced by the rules that protect defenseless players. The statistics would not suggest those rules have resulted in an increased number of ACL injuries. For example, through the first 13 weeks of the 2013 season, one tight end, one wide receiver and one quarterback have suffered contact-related ACL injuries. This compares to five such injuries at those positions in 2012, four in 2011, two in 2010 and one in 2009. For offensive players generally, there have been six such injuries in 2011, compared to 10 in 2012, eight in 2011, nine in 2010 and six in 2009.


* Among defensive players, through the first 13 weeks of the 2013 season, there were 6 ACL injuries involving contact with another player. This compares to 9 such injuries in 2012, 10 in 2011, 9 in 2010, and 7 in 2009.


* Among special teams players, through the first 13 weeks of the 2013 season, there were 4 ACL injuries involving contact with another player. This compares to 2 such injuries in 2012, 4 in 2011, 6 in 2010, and 7 in 2009.


In short, the available information does not support a conclusion that there are more ACL injuries in 2013, and certainly there has not been a "surge" of such injuries. In fact, the data shows quite the opposite. Similarly, the available data would not appear to support a claim that the injuries that do occur are the result of rules developed to protect players from taking blows to the head and neck area.


Earlier Thursday, NFL spokesman Michael Signora said the league did not agree with Belichick's assertions.

"We carefully monitor player injuries," Signora said. "There is no evidence that the new work rules have had an adverse effect on the injury rate or that injuries have in fact increased."

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