Lockout Effect on Injuries This Year?

The Kansas City Chiefs have been hit with a plethora of injuries, losing three key players in three weeks to ACL tears.  This doesn’t suggest that anterior cruciate ligaments are somehow flimsier in the Show Me State, but it does raise the question of whether there are more severe injuries around the league this year, and if there is a “Lockout Effect” related to injuries.

The Chiefs have lost three key players in the last three weeks.  Tight end Tony Moeaki was lost for the season in the final preseason game, then safety Eric Berry was lost in week one on a block by receiver Stevie Johnson of the Bills, and then Jamaal Charles tore his ACL this past week.

The Chiefs aren’t the only team dealing with these types of injuries, as the Giants have been hit with a series of ACL injuries as well.  In a period of 24 hours, the Giants lost cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Brian Witherspoon to season-ending ACL injuries, and defensive tackle Marvin Austin to season-ending surgery on his left pectoral muscle.

While these are just a few examples, there does seem to be more injuries this season, and the question of a Lockout Effect is an obvious difference to examine.  There is no way to demonstrate a cause and effect between the lockout and injuries, but it is possible that there are some secondary causes at work.

Teams and players had variable offseason workout programs.  Some teams, like the New Orleans Saints, had very thorough player-organized workouts with almost full participation from the team.  Other teams, like the Green Bay Packers, didn’t have any player-organized workouts at all.

Beyond the team working together, individual players normally have a range of different offseason conditioning programs, and that variability was probably much wider with the lockout and lack of team contact.  Some players worked extra hard on conditioning in the offseason and some eased off a bit to let their bodies recover.

But how does this relate to injuries?

Players with a lower level of conditioning will fatigue faster.  “It’s possible that as players fatigue, they will become more inclined to injuries as their biomechanics break down,” said Dr. John Sullivan, sports psychologist and leader in performance science.

“As your biomechanics break down, you may respond to impact differently or not plant your feet as precisely, which could result in more injuries than is typical this far into the season.  But there’s no way to demonstrate a cause and effect.”

So, in short, the answer to the Lockout Effect is a resounding “maybe.”  It does seem like there have been more serious injuries to this point in the season, but it’s impossible to say if it’s a cause and effect or just a statistical anomaly.

We’ll just have to keep hoping that we don’t lose more of our favorite players to season ending injuries.  While football will always be a contact sport, we want to see our favorite players on the field, not tweeting their thoughts from a hospital bed.

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