Every NFL season there seems to be a handful of teams that are bitten by the injury bug. Those teams do not tend to finish the season well. It is easy to say that injuries are a big reason said teams do not play well but look a little more closely and you will discover an interesting pattern. Bad football teams seem to suffer an inordinate amount of injuries which, subsequently, contribute to continued poor play.

The best teams in the league still suffer injuries. Football is a violent sport that makes injury unavoidable. But why is it that bad teams seem to suffer more injuries than good teams? For that we turn to a study out of the Czech Republic. The study, conducted in 2000, looked at the prevalence of injuries among soccer players. Though soccer is measurably less violent than football, data gleaned from the study still offers a lot of insight.

Typical Soccer Injuries

Researchers from the Orthopaedic Clinic IPVZ Bulovka in Prague looked at 686 injuries sustained by 398 soccer players. Just over 16% of the injuries were considered severe. The most prevalent among them were joint sprains, fractures, muscle strains, ligament ruptures, and meniscal tears and contusions.

The researchers concluded that there were both intrinsic and extrinsic factors responsible for causing injuries. Among the intrinsic causes were player age, previous injury history, and physical condition. Also at the top of the list were poor football skills. Remember that.

In terms of extrinsic factors, they include things like exercise overload, playing field conditions, and equipment issues. The two most intriguing factors in this category were the amount and quality of training and adhering to the rules of soccer. Look at all of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors and there are three that stick out:

  • Poor skills
  • Amount and quality of training
  • Adhering to the rules.

This may not make much sense if you are not familiar with the 2011 collective-bargaining agreement that changed how NFL teams can practice. In light of that agreement and the data from the Czech study though, it suddenly becomes easier to understand why bad teams have such injury problems.

Limited Practice Causes Problems

The 2011 collective-bargaining agreement affected practices and workouts during the off-season, in mini-camps, during the exhibition season, and during the regular and post season. Needless to say that training camp is not nearly as physically strenuous as it used to be. The same is true for practices during the regular season.

Coaches are now limited in the number of pattern practices they can conduct. They are limited in the amount of time they can conduct practices. And although players can practice voluntarily on their own, coaches are not permitted to even encourage practising outside of the collective-bargaining agreement’s guidelines.

It should be obvious that limiting practice limits the ability of bad teams to get better. If players are not willing to practice on their own outside of organised team activities, the lack of practice prevents them from improving. That means they hit the field on Sunday with poor skills. That is why bad teams are bad. But remember, poor skills contribute to injuries.

Also remember that the amount and quality of training also contributes to injuries. The less practice a football player is exposed to, the more likely he will suffer an injury. If the quality of that practice is lacking, injury risk also goes up.

Not Playing by the Rules

Bad teams also tend to be highly penalised teams. They have trouble playing by the rules because they do not have the skills to keep up with the opposing team. When you lower your helmet to make a big hit because you’re not a very good tackler, you increase the chances of injuring yourself. You are also breaking the rules. The two go hand-in-hand.

Add to that the fact that bad teams who are heavily penalised may be subject to some level of retribution from opposing teams who might feel as though too many cheap shots are being taken. Such retribution can lead to even more injuries for the bad team.

Poor Play and More Injuries

At the end of the day, the 2011 collective-bargaining agreement that limited practice has created a situation that has resulted in mediocre play throughout the league along with more injuries among the worst teams. It’s a situation that looks a lot like coaching Pop Warner teams without having sports first aid kits around.

Not having a first aid kit at a Pop Warner practice is inviting trouble in the event of an injury. It opens the door to all sorts of problems that could have easily been avoided had there been a first aid kit on hand. Likewise, limiting practice at the professional level opens the door to a whole host of problems very few anticipated eight years ago. Limited practice has led to poor play and more injuries for the worst teams.

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