The Importance of Preseason in the NFL and High School Athletes


Edward (Tommy) McMahon, Reporter

Throughout the first half of the NFL season, multiple All-Pro athletes have fallen at the hand of injury, especially in the first string of games. Most notably, Giants running-back Saquan Barkley, Panther running-back Christian Mccaffrey, New Orlean Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, and essentially the entire San Francisco 49erś and Denver Broncos starting lineups. Though injuries are no stranger to the National Football League, big names around the league are going down consistently every week. The most common causes of injury among players mainly are due to either too much or too little high-intensity practices and games, leading to significant and season-altering injuries. 


 When asked the question, ¨do you think the lack of preseason events such as games and training camp has led to an uptick in major injuries?” Marni Barton, the Glenwood Springs High School athletic trainer, confidently replied, “I do believe that a lack of preseason events, especially training camps, has increased the injury rates in the NFL… This has led to a global de-conditioning in most athletes, for example, with our cross country team. In previous seasons you really did not see shin splints, or pulled muscles, or large muscle imbalances in many of our runners. We did this year. All of these types of injuries are hallmarks of going to high-level sports too quickly, de-conditioned or otherwise.¨


It could be argued that it is not the lack of conditioning leading into the season that is causing injuries around the NFL, but rather the players on the field being bigger, faster, and stronger due to the increased competitiveness. This has especially been evident over the last three seasons, as there has been a slight increase in major season-ending injuries among players. However, most of these injuries have come into play during the preseason, as well as among smaller, not as well-known, athletes in the NFL. Most of these players are backups to the main starting core and aren’t used to taking on 50 to 60 snaps in a preseason game. Meaning, they come into the game not as conditioned as a starter that is used to taking on the physical toll, leading to major soft-tissue injuries. The lack of proper-conditioning helps to prove the idea that the lack of training going into the season, especially this year with the COVID restrictions, contributes to these statistics. 


Another pressing issue among players is the way they are forced to play the game. New NFL rules, like roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness, are forcing the players to hit low to avoid hits like helmet to helmet that could lead to a 15 yard penalty. These kinds of consequences can change the momentum of the game especially in a late game scenario. So naturally players hit lower, one would think that this would lead to an increase in lower body injuries in the NFL like a torn ACL. However the rate of which there are torn ACLś among players are the same as they have been for the last 10 years. Averaging about 50 players for the total season and 22 in the preseason since 2010. So it is not in the rule change that is causing these injuries. Another interesting statistic is that in the 2020 NFL season there has been no increase and is still on pace to match the 50 players with torn ACLś per season. However, there has been an uptick of 33 percent in soft tissue injuries among players. Meaning that there are more hamstring, abdominal, bicep, tricep, and rotator cuff strains and tears than previous seasons according to the play smart play safe NFL initiative.. Most of these injuries are common among athletes, and are more evident when athletes are forced into high intensity training, like playing in the NFL, after not doing so for a period of time. Possibly suggesting these high profile athletes, despite training all offseason, came into the 2020 season not as conditioned as they have been in previous seasons due to the COVID pandemic.


The field conditions at Metlife stadium is also a suspect of many in the Week 2 injuries among the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. The New York Times asked the players about the condition of the field where they described it as “sticky” and ¨trash.¨ However the field has been closed since then to undergo inspection to determine if it was in fact the field conditions or another cause for the onslaught of injuries among the teams. 


This pressing issue of injuries will be closely monitored in the following weeks by the NFL and high school athletic trainers throughout the remainder of the season to determine the true cause of injuries among their players. As of now, the lack of preseason and training camps, influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, seems to be the cause of the surge in injuries throughout the NFL and high school athletes.