A thought on the early-season ACL injuries

By JOHN VERROS, Injury Information Coordinator

After losing players like Saquon Barkley and Nick Bosa to ACL tears early in the season, it raises the question: Are the circumstances of the 2020 season causing an increase in ACL injuries?

In Weeks 1 and 2 we have recorded a total of 10 ACL tears that occurred during a game. This is approximately twice as many as we observed in the first two weeks of 2018 (5 injuries) and 2019 (4 injuries). Without knowing what the future of the 2020 season holds, I am inclined to look at everything leading up to the season in a skeptical lens.  

From the get-go, players had limited access to the advanced training facilities and injury prevention programs due to quarantining. The majority of NFL players treat their bodies with exceptional care. After all, their health is their livelihood. From dieticians, track coaches, physical therapists, strength coaches and chiropractors – NFL athletes need to take the offseason months seriously in order to prepare for the rigors of August  through January. Although I’m positive that players were able to stay in shape, it was almost certainly not at the same level as previous years.

Following the theme that this offseason was unlike any other, players may not have known if there would be a delay to the start of the season due to COVID-19. While it may not seem like a big deal to some, having a set date of when to be at peak performance is crucial to elite athletes.

Periodization is the term used to describe the systematic planning of athletic training. The aim for NFL players is to reach their best possible condition by the time the season starts. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during specific time periods throughout the offseason. This includes the proper timing of aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, speed and other body maintenance techniques. 

I hope that this unique offseason did not interfere with the normal cycle and rhythm of these elite NFL athletes.  I expect to see fewer ACL injuries and other major injuries as the season progresses.

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