When it comes to sports injuries, one of the most commonly discussed problems in football is concussions. Last year, a $1 billion settlement was finalized after 4,500 ex-players filed a lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) claiming the NFL hid known concussion risks.
Although concussions are a very real danger in football, there are many other football injuries that can end a career and change a player’s future.
NCAA Football Injuries
The most recent data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is for the 2004-2009 seasons.
- Per 1,000 athletes, the football injury rate is 8.1.
- Approximately 41,000 injuries were reported within the 5-year period
- Players were nearly 7 times more likely to be injured during a game than practice
- The most common injury? Ligament sprains, which made up 30% of the reported injuries
- Concussions made up almost 8% of all injuries
- Players were more likely to be injured during pre-season
- Nearly 17% of the injuries were in the upper limbs
- More than 50% of the injuries were below the waist
- Knee injuries in football were the most frequently reported lower limb injury
- In 7.5% of injuries, players had to get surgery
- Linebackers were injured most frequently, followed by running backs and receivers
The data on football injuries in the NFL is not as easily found as NCAA. Although there is clear data on concussions, the information on other injuries varies.
- Among more than 30,000 injuries reported between 2000 and 2014, ACL knee injuries in football led to the longest number of weeks missed, with players missing more than 10 weeks on average
- Special teams, running backs and fullbacks are more likely to be hurt
- Quarterbacks most frequently suffer shoulder injuries while among all other players, about 26% of their injuries are in the lower leg, ankle or foot.
- For all players except quarterbacks, lower leg, and knee injuries were the most common.
- In 2013, there were more than 100 ACL injuries reported, most of which involved contact with another player
- Between 2003 and 2013, only about 50% of players who suffered patellar injuries returned to the game. During this time, 559 players underwent procedures for orthopedic injuries.
- About 44% of former NFL players say they’ve had a joint replacement or been advised they need one.
Super Bowl Injuries
The Super Bowl is typically the most viewed event of the year. With millions of eyes on the big game, the injuries are sometimes talked about just as much as the game-winning touchdown.
- Super Bowl XXIII: Tim Krumrie was carted out after breaking his ankle in multiple places while making a dive tackle.
- During that same Super Bowl, Steve Wallace broke his left fibula as a result of the turf in the stadium.
- Super Bowl XX: Leslie Frazier blew out his knee when his foot got stuck in the turf. He never played in the league again.
- Super Bowl XXXIII: Shannon Sharpe suffered a torn MCL in the first quarter.
- Super XLV: Charles Woodson suffered a fractured collarbone.
- Super Bowl XLVI: Jake Ballard suffered a torn ACL while running an outside-breaking route.
For many players, their injuries start in college and continue through their pro careers. Although some can bounce back quickly, many others will undergo surgery to try to extend their careers. Unfortunately, many players will experience pain long after their careers are over.