ACL in the NFL

A lot of commotion has been stirred up over the NFL’s handling of head trauma injuries. The league has been forced to make new rules and regulations regarding proper tackling form and post-concussion procedure. However, head injuries only take a player out of the game for a few weeks. The true career changer is an ACL tear.Image result for acl diagram

The ACL is a ligament in the knee that connects the two major bones in the leg. When this ligament is torn, the injured person can’t walk. The surgery is extremely invasive and can keep a player from physical activity for up to a year. Once the player returns from the injury, the chance of re-tearing the ligament is high. Most players return to action wearing a specialized knee brace.

The injury can occur when a player makes an unnatural lateral cut, the leg is hit at an awkward angle, or when doing simple movements. The randomness and recovery time of tan ACL tear make it one of the most feared injuries in the NFL. USA TODAY sports columnists Peter Barzilai and Erik Brady found that 46% (of the 293 players they polled) said they feared leg injuries the most compared to the 26% that said they fear head injuries the most.

Image result for acl injury nflSo why is it such a big deal in the NFL? Football has many aspects that make the players susceptible to ACL tears. Evading defenders requires constant lateral movement. The body is constantly shifting weight in order to brace for hits or break out into open field. Cleats, which help the players traction, actually increase the amount of stress on the knees during play. NFL teams invest millions into the players on their squad. When these injuries occur, the teams still have to pay the money that is determined in the players contract. For instance, when Teddy Bridgewater, the Minnesota Viking quarterback, suffered an ACL tear in training camp, the Vikings had to trade away multiple draft picks and millions of dollars to acquired new starting quarterback in Sam Bradford.

Therefore, it is surprising that NFL teams do not investigate more into the prevention of ACL tears. Even though head trauma can truly ruin a players life, it financially makes more sense for teams to stress leg injury prevention.

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5 thoughts on “ACL in the NFL

  1. Anthony Michael Calligaro

    About a week ago I wrote a blog on a similar topic: the difference in injury rate in sports between playing on grass and playing on artificial turf. Obviously, this debate included a lot of discussion in regards to ACL injuries. After a lot of research where scientists disagreed on which surface was safer, I came across a Sports Science video (link is below) where, according to John Brenkus, ACL sprains are 67% more likely on turf than grass. So based on your argument that ACL tears are the most concerning injury in the NFL, I would suggest that more teams switch from artificial turf to grass fields.

  2. dhc5097

    I agree that the ACL injury is both hurting NFL teams financially and the players careers as well, but if there was a cure or a way to cut back on ACL tears then maybe the NFL should focus on that. The truth of the matter is that their is not much you can do to avoid an ACL injury in a game besides wearing a brace and pads. Maybe more research in the muscles surrounding the ACL and prevention methods will help. I found an article online explaining a few prevention tips too do before exercising to cut back on the chance of tearing your ACL.


  3. Joe Garrett

    I think the ACL tears are more overlooked in the NFL and football in general due to the long term effects caused by concussions. While I agree that an ACL tear is a brutal injury and long one to recover from, I believe it is important the the NFL continues to address concussions and how to prevent them because if they do not continue to take steps to do so I believe many younger people will not be allowed to play football because their parents do not want to put their children at risk of suffering serious brain damage.

  4. Matthew Jacobs-Womer

    You are taking the stance that more effort needs to be put towards preventing ACL tears… but is there actually a good way to prevent them? There are ways to easily lower the rate of head injuries: technology in helmets has increased and there has been a greater focus on the form players are hitting each other with. Overall I truly believe the players should just be left to play, they are making over (for the most part) 2 million dollars a year (obviously there are also players making half a million and some making upwards of 20 million a year). While their compensation is on average lower than other professional sports in the United States, they are still being paid a significant amount to play football, so let them just play. Back to the ACL topic… There does not seem to be a better method of prevention than to properly stretch and possibly wear a brace before activity. The article linked below discusses a program that strengthens muscles around the knee area which has been shown to help in preventing ACL injuries.

  5. mjg6031

    I think that the torn ACL is frequent in most sports that include agility. It occurs most in football due to the size and speed of the athletes. I think that the NFL needs to decide whether or not they want to make the game less dangerous or let the players play. Football is an absolutely brutal game that is going to result in serious injury to someone at some point of the game. The science behind the torn ligament and how it gets torn is just part of the game. Here is a link to the change in tackling rules in the NFL. Click here to see the article.

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