Lockout causes rise in preseason injuries
Since the end of the NFL lockout, a stunning 10 players already have seen their season ruined before the first exhibition game by torn Achilles, an injury that experts say is nowhere near this common in a normal league year, the New York Post reported Sunday.
Considering that the labor stoppage kept players away from their teams -- and team doctors and team athletic trainers and multimillion-dollar team weight rooms -- for five months, this rash of injuries overall, and Achilles tears in particular, seems predictable to those in the know.
"Achilles ruptures are kind of a classic 'weekend warrior' injury, and I can imagine that's what the lockout turned many of these players into," according to Dr. Andrew Pearle, an orthopedic surgeon at Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery and a former member of the New York Giants' medical team.
Lockout or no lockout, injuries are a part of every NFL training camp. But the flurry of torn Achilles was shocking, particularly because it is an injury that can strike at the oddest times and, more often that not, involves no contact.
Not all of the debilitating injuries have been Achilles-related, but the vast majority involved the lower extremities. Two first-round picks, the Giants' Prince Amukamara and Nick Fairley of the Detroit Lions, are out several weeks with broken bones in their feet.
That trend of lower-leg injuries leads experts and players alike to finger as the leading suspect the months of forced downtime because of the lockout.
"A lot of people say it's guys not working out, but if you're working out but not doing football-type drills, your muscles aren't accustomed to making cuts and things like that," Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck said. "I'm not surprised by [all the Achilles injuries]."
Ironically, the lockout might have led to fewer such injuries both this year and in the future because one outcome of the resolution was the elimination of two-a-day practices and a dramatic reduction in on-field workouts throughout the year.
"Who knows how many more of these [injuries] we'd be seeing already if these coaches didn't have to give up their beloved two-a-days," a prominent agent said, referring specifically to such noted taskmasters as Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid.
Some coaches, however, argue that more practice time could prevent injuries for the very reason doctors say is causing the flood of Achilles ruptures -- too much downtime between high-intensity football drills involving lots of cutting and jumping.
"[Tearing of the Achilles] is an injury particularly common with the rapid resumption of 'explosive' activities [such as cutting and jumping] after a relatively sedentary lifestyle," Pearle said.
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