Why Are The First Two Weeks Of Training Camp So Perilous?
I track injuries during the preseason in three phases.
Phase 1: Entrance physicals and roster / PUP decisions.
Phase 2: Reconditioning and return to football-related activities.
Phase 3: Preseason games (a.k.a. "please don't get hurt after you're in condition to play")
Every NFL team has now reported to camp and made decisions on who arrived in condition to practice and who isn't ready yet. We're now traversing the second phase of camp. Most players have been away from the team complex training on their own since minicamps ended six weeks ago. The vast majority will pass team conditioning tests and be cleared to practice. But cardiovascular condition doesn't equal football condition in every case. As players start working through live individual and team drills, their risk of soft tissue injuries increases.
Rick Burkholder, a long time NFL athletic trainer now working with the Kansas City Chiefs, tweeted an interesting fact about returning players last week. He noted that hydration levels "dip to their lowest [on] Day 3 and it takes until Day 11 to normalize." Not surprisingly, he tweeted "we also see significant amounts of soft tissue injuries in that time period."
That's intuitive, of course, but still worth the note. It's frustrating to see so many players held out of practice with tightness or soreness or higher-grade strains this time of year. But Burkholder's tweet is a reminder that it's still a difficult ask to prevent these injuries at the highest level of athletics. Careful monitoring of hydration status by weighing players in and out and monitoring urine concentration, detailed tracking of player movement with GPS data, and judicious use of limited practice reps for some players is still not enough to keep a full 90-player roster free from soft tissue injury.
And, as you'll see in the table below, this preseason will be no exception.
Gurley and Michel Are Practicing
In most seasons, the biggest offseason story is whether an elite player will recover effectively after a major offseason surgery, e.g. Andrew Luck's shoulder, Rob Gronkowski's arm, or the running-back-of-the-moment ACL.
That's not the case this season. The most discussed offseason injury situation has been Todd Gurley's knee injury -- despite Gurley playing in the Super Bowl, not having any offseason procedures, and the Rams continually saying there was little to be concerned about.
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