Football is a sport that’s not for the faint of heart. With all of the sharp movements at high physical speeds and bone-crushing hits, it’s no wonder why parents across the country are preventing their children from stepping foot on to the gridiron at a young age. Maybe their reservations come from what they see the National Football League on TV every Sunday: career-ending and sometimes life-threatening injuries.
Sure, sports fans are not naïve to the fact that players regularly get hurt. But nowadays, many former athletes are finding out just how much permanent bodily harm the game caused them. That’s why the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has stepped up its efforts to guarantee that the league is doing all it can to ensure their employees’ safety.
But even with enforcing changes to the game and levying fines on dirty players, professional football lives on as a ferocious game. Not to mention, long-term ailments themselves seem to be happening more frequently. It’s at the point where the players find themselves in a catch 22: Would they rather receive a severe blow to the head or a strike to the leg? Nevertheless, there are 3 brutal injuries that can threaten the careers of NFL players on any given Sunday.
1. The Concussion
The NFLPA recently made headlines for winning a $765 million lawsuit against the NFL to pay for medical exams, underwrite research, and compensate retired players who were victims of concussions and now suffer through brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkison’s, and Dementia.
The textbook definition of a concussion is “a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions.” It is most commonly caused by a strike to the head, an all too frequent occurance in a professional football game full of helmet-to-helmet hits. Studies now show that the brain can be affected for decades after a concussion and can seriously affect the way the mind works.
One of the most devastating recent deaths in the sports world was the suicide of former hall of fame linebacker Junior Seau, who suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy , a disease caused by repetitive brain trauma that can lead to suicidal thoughts if left untreated. With all of the news, medical studies and lawsuits surrounding concussions, the NFL has tried to crack down on illegal head hits by suspending repeat offenders.
2. The Torn ACL
As a result of the new rules to help avoid more concussions in the NFL, defensive players are confused about how they can tackle their opponents effectively. It’s inevitable that they’re concentrating more on attacking the lower body, so there’s concern about an increase in leg injuries like the dreaded torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). But, believe it or not, it’s actually more of a non-contact injury. As the tissue that maintains joint stability, the ACL tear occurs when players such as running backs or wide receivers shift and twist their legs, making movements that are sometimes way too much for the ligament to handle, this tear happens all too often.
Most affected players elect to have an ACL reconstruction where a surgeon makes a “new” ligament from tendons that come from other parts of the person’s own leg. While some athletes never get back to their original form and see lower production on field, others greatly exceed expectations. A perfect example is Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who came back from the surgery in less than nine months in the 2012-2013 season, only to run for 2,009 yards, just short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards.
3. The Ruptured Achilles
The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the human body. Located right behind the lower ankle, it gives you the support to push off the leg while running and jumping. In a sport like football, this is vital to all activities on the field. An athlete may feel a sudden pop and immediately have problems putting weight on the injured leg, and some have said that it feels like someone shot them in back of the foot. This injury is typically devastating for a player because it can take over a year to rehab. Also, regaining pre-injury form is not very common.
Physician Dr. Mark Schwartz says about one-third of NFL players who suffered the ruptured Achillies never played football again. So, for a player like second-year receiver Ryan Broyles from the Detroit Lions, the odds are against him. Broyles suffered the dreaded injury in October following rehab for torn ACLs in each leg over the past two seasons — one even dating back to his senior year at Oklahoma.
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