By Sean Zucker –
Week Two of NFL action saw an extraordinary amount of lingering injuries to high impact players, including superstar running backs Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffery and perennial Pro Bowlers Davante Adams and Anthony Barr. Oh yeah, just about half the San Francisco 49ers’ starting unit got whacked too. This injury onslaught started Week One but now has exploded to a bewildering level. Sure, there are enormous fantasy football implications in all this. But the rash of unexpected sidelining serves as a stark reminder of the importance of gradually gearing the human body up towards extreme physical activities whether you’re a professional or a weekend warrior.
“At the beginning of an exercise program or sport season, we’re more susceptible to demands placed on our body. Bones and muscles will adapt accordingly, but this takes time,” cautions Marshfield Clinic Health System. “With every workout, your body will heal and remodel itself to better serve you. Without adequate recovery time, our muscles and bones will fail us, resulting in micro-trauma and overuse injuries.”
The NFL, in fact, may have become its worst enemy in terms of fostering this year’s injuries. Following concerns of COVID-19, NFL opted to cancel all preseason games and vastly shorten team training camps to limit possible exposure to the virus. Many experts have pointed towards this shift as the primary reason for the surprising amount of early season injuries.
Former player turned ESPN NFL analyst Rob Ninkovich, for one, was quick to point out the possible consequences of the NFL’s adjustments. “When you look at just injuries in general, I think that the first two weeks of the season we’ve seen a lot of injuries and a lot of big injuries which maybe could question the offseason with not having team organized activities…,” he explained last Sunday night on ESPN SportsCenter. “I think that it could be just general conditioning of each player that could play a part in some of these injuries.”
The two-time Super Bowl winning linebacker went on to note that without professional oversight, players were left to their own discretion to work out and prepare their bodies for the season, which may have led to some players to exercise less efficiently, less overall or incorrectly.
The league apparently had prepared itself for this evitability. But it still seemed surprised by the severity and variety of the injuries to date. “The injury part of it, you know, to me if you’re going to put your finger on an injury because of the preseason I would have thought there would have been more soft tissue injuries – not things that are either ligament damage or structural. And it sounds like, just from the reports, it sounds like, you know, the amount of ACL’s that were incurred yesterday is probably at an all time high.” Arizona Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim explained Monday on The Rich Eisen Show.
Okay, so chances are most men and women are not going to face the same punishing extremes that professional football confront. Smart preparation, nonetheless, is critical to avoiding similar mistakes and unnecessary injuries no matter who is breaking into a sweat. The Marshfield Clinic recommends avoiding doing too much, too soon to circumvent an overuse injury. Gradually increase distance, time or intensity of a workout by no more than 10 percent in one week. Listen to your body and appreciate the need for periods of rest and recovery to safely progress in a physical activity.
Kristin Gustafson, Rasmussen College’s Exercise Science and Wellness Coordinator, simplified the advice even further for the everyday exercise duffer or would-be fitness junkie. She told Active to “Be smart about your training.”
She also warned that time changes all things. “Just because you could do a specific exercise 10 or 20 years ago, doesn’t mean you can exercise with the same speed and energy today. Be realistic about your training and not focus on what you use to do. Too much, too soon can be the number one reason why injuries occur. Gradually increase your time and the intensity of your workouts to prevent those nagging injuries.”
Gustafson’s sound advice along with not getting hit by Rams all-universe defensive end Aaron Donald should keep almost everyone up and running.