Frequent NFL Player Injuries: What to Watch For

Updated on January 6, 2024

Hamstring strains, torn ligaments, and ankle sprains pose significant challenges to NFL teams, just like a potent offense or a strong defense. 

According to seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, injuries occur in the NFL with a 100 percent frequency. Managing these injuries can determine whether a team’s season falters or defies expectations by securing a playoff spot. 

In today’s article, we’ll take a closer look at the prevalent injuries experienced by NFL players during the season.

Watch my knee 

Since the year 2000, knee injuries have consistently been the most prevalent type of injury. The knee is a complex joint with numerous components susceptible to damage during football games. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are two commonly affected ligaments. 

Wide receivers and running backs are particularly vulnerable to tearing or straining their ACL or PCL when they land forcefully or change directions abruptly while running. On the other hand, Kickers may experience patellar tendonitis, an injury that affects the connective tissue between the kneecap and the shinbone.

My foot hurts 

Over the years, foot and ankle injuries have seen an increase. These injuries range from minor pulls and tendon strains to severe high ankle sprains. Besides the obvious factor of physical contact between players, other elements may contribute to the rise in foot and ankle injuries. Advances in footwear and cleats have improved performance, but they are now lighter and less stable than those used decades ago. 

Football players who compete on artificial turf are susceptible to a specific injury known as turf toe. Turf toe is a sprain that affects the joint of the big toe. Despite its seemingly minor nature compared to other football injuries, it can significantly impact players such as running backs. The recovery period can last several weeks and hinder their on-field performance even longer. While surgical intervention is usually unnecessary, players must rest until the injury fully heals. Overusing the affected toe can exacerbate the initial sprain, thus delaying the healing process.

Additionally, players have become bigger, stronger, and faster, increasing stress on the foot and ankle. During gameplay, these body parts endure significant levels of traction and friction, resulting in force being exerted on them.

NFL enthusiasts relish placing bets on football game spreads, totals, and futures. However, there’s a notable absence of an injury market in most sportsbooks, and for good reason. The abundance of foot injuries would likely dominate such a market, and it’s safe to assume that it could become a common and winning choice for bettors.

The Most Dangerous: Concussions 

The NFL Physicians Society has identified the most common injuries as concussions, chest injuries such as broken ribs, and abdominal injuries like splenic lacerations and kidney injuries. 

Out of all the injury types, concussions are the most concerning ones in recent years. Research indicates repeated concussions can potentially increase the risk of developing mental health issues later in life, including dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. 

To address this, the NFL has implemented several rule changes to prohibit helmet-to-helmet collisions and targeting the head area, particularly when players are in vulnerable positions. Furthermore, measures have been put in place to evaluate concussions on the sideline more effectively and to promptly remove players from the game if they are diagnosed with or suspected of having a concussion.

Fractures, Dislocation, & Lacerations 

Fractures are frequent in NFL injuries and usually involve the bones surrounding the eyes, shoulder, and hands. Additionally, stress fractures, which are tiny fractures caused by added stress, can also be found in the shin. 

Dislocations commonly happen in the shoulder joint and can be caused by impact, twisting, or falling. They are often accompanied by severe pain, swelling, and bruising. Shoulder dislocations are a prevalent occurrence in the NFL. The tackling techniques employed and the immense power exerted during gameplay can result in displacing a player’s arm from its shoulder socket. These injuries cause significant pain and can compromise the joint’s stability, increasing the likelihood of future dislocations.

On the other hand, lacerations and contusions are minor injuries that frequently happen on the field. 

Anthony Jones is a freelance writer with over 15 years of experience writing about health supplements for various health and fitness magazines. He also owns a health supplements store in Topeka, Kansas. Anthony earned his health and science degree at Duke University, where he studied the effects of exercise and nutrition on human physiology.