The numbers are truly staggering, and as the arduous season wears on, they’ll only get worse.
Heading into week 4 of the NFL season, storylines were beginning to emerge, trends coming to light, and the season starting to take shape, as it often does about a month or so into September. Unfortunately, the data after just three weeks shows that a staggering 839 players had appeared on NFL injury reports after just three games.
As one would expect with a sport as grueling as professional football, the number of names on the list has grown each week, from 125 in week 1 (prior to the first game), 159 in week 2, 91 in week 3, and 364 names appeared on the list during week 4, prior to Sunday’s games.
To give a sense of scale, Basketball Reference (via Deadspin) states that the entirety of the NBA used 528 roster spots in a season. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see the total injury count for a later week, such as 12 or 13, actually eclipse the total number of players in the NBA.
Not only is this number important (and shocking) as a reflection of the health and wellness of NFL players, but these gaudy numbers also suggest that the on-field product will continue to suffer unless the league puts more safety provisions in place. Not only are starting quarterbacks being injured, but so too are their backups, and in the case of New England Patriots, who saw Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the season, their backups’ backups.
Here’s a piece that documents some of the biggest injuries in the league that piled up before the season even began:
Now, injury reporting rules shifted somewhat this season, but it’s unlikely those tweaks created much of a difference in whether or not the players listed actually had sustained injuries. Mostly, the revision just spoke to classifications in buckets such as “probably,” “questionable,” and “doubtful.” Similarly, it’s possible to be place on an injury report and still play that week, but, again, it doesn’t change the fact that a player was actually injured in the prior week.
It’s unlikely that any further steps to improve player safety will be made during the season, but it’s possible that as these numbers continue to climb, people will take notice. And if fans and fantasy football players start to register their diapproval with constantly seeing favorite players on the sidelines, then it’s hopeful that more precautions will be put in place next season.
Not likely, but hopeful.