I thought this was interesting. No offseason workout and there have already been the equivalent Achilles tears in preseason that take place during the regular season.
When the N.F.L. lockout ended last month and players streamed into training camps on short notice after no supervised off-season workouts, many expected a series of nagging hamstring strains and quadriceps pulls to result, the normal early-season indicators of overexertion and uneven fitness.
But so far, the unintended winners of the lockout are orthopedic surgeons. With training camps open for less than two weeks, unofficial counts have 10 players with Achilles’ tendon tears, season-ending injuries that Monday claimed their latest victim, Mikel Leshoure, a rookie running back for Detroit.
The number is notable because nine players are thought to have torn their Achilles’ tendons in all of the 2010 preseason. According to figures compiled by Football Outsiders, a Web site that tracks every game of the season, nine players were on injured reserve with Achilles’ tendon injuries in the first week of the season last year.
Although the N.F.L. closely tracks injuries, it has not yet received injury data from trainers for training camps. On average, there are eight Achilles’ tears in a full season, said Dr. Elliott Hershman, the director of orthopedics at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and the chairman of the N.F.L.’s Injury and Safety Committee.
Hershman said it was far too early to draw any conclusions about the spate of Achilles’ tendon injuries. He could not even confirm the number.
“Many times, we see single seasons with a particular injury that has a higher incidence for one season and then the next season it drops back down,” he said. “A few years ago, we had a lot of AC joints in the shoulder,” he said, referring to acromioclavicular joints.
When there are unusual spikes in injuries, the N.F.L. studies workout programs and weight room regimens to try to discover the reason and figure out how to modify schedules to reduce the injuries. Hershman said the N.F.L. always saw more muscle and tendon injuries in trainings camps, with hamstring injuries always the top injury in the first two weeks of the camps. But he pointed to another reason there might be more Achilles’ tendon injuries: teams are allowed to have more players — 90 — on the roster this year than in regular years because of the lockout, so more players are exposed to injury.
Coach Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions said he did not think the lockout was to blame for losing Leshoure, a second-round draft pick.
“We had a player a couple of years ago get one, and there was no lockout that year,” Schwartz said Monday. “He was in great shape and was one of our hardest workers. It’s just one of those things. Running backs obviously load up their ankles and things like that quite a bit.”
Dr. Jonathan Glashow, an orthopedic surgeon and a co-director of sports medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, said the injury frequently happened to weekend tennis players who had not been on the court in months and then tried to play at full speed. He says he suspects the frequency will taper off as the football season continues and players work themselves into better shape. The injury is season ending, but it is not usually career threatening, Glashow said.
“It usually happens to muscles that are out of shape or when the limb has other ailments like a knee injury,” said Glashow, who treats professional athletes. “Having had that lockout, maybe some guys didn’t work out. I think they’re more vulnerable.
“My intuitive sense is this injury usually happens in people who are not ready to function yet. It usually happens to people at the beginning of the season, due to a lack of muscle memory or preparation, or at the end of the season, due to fatigue.”