What is the medical impact of playing more football games

doug flutie electronic billboardThe NFL is considering moving to 18 regular season games. While this hasn’t been approved by the league or the union, it does loom on the horizon.

A very brief Associated Press article came out today referencing Doug Flutie and Jim Kelly and their experience playing 18 games in the USFL. As you may remember, the USFL had a number of different rules than the NFL one of which was 18 games in a season.

The article looks to be a stub instead of offering any detail. Still, it was enough to begin to think about the medical impact of playing 18 regular season NFL games. Right now, the league plays a number of pre-season games and the 16 regular season games. The pre-season games rarely feature the marquee players going all out for the entire game, so injury risk is reduced, but not eliminated.

Interestingly, Esquire Magazine was given injury data by the NFL players union that really sheds light on the actual injuries, the ramifications and the possible solutions.

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Running through the data you see a few things:

  • 60% of all major injuries happen during the regular season.
  • Quarterbacks suffer the least amount of major injuries.
  • Cornerbacks and Safties suffer the most amount of major injuries.

The type of injuries that occur most and will see an increase include:

  • Hip, thigh or leg.
  • Knee
  • Ankle or foot.

Adding two more games ensures that the starters face an increased risk of major injury. The more troubling concern is that the possibility of overuse or endurance related injuries increases. Unlike trauma injuries, you will begin to see more injuries related to:

  • Shoulder
  • Iliotibial band friction syndrome
  • Hamstring pulls

Doug Flutie was one of my favorite players, so here he is playing in the USFL:

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