Column: The injury bugs are swarming

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2017, file photo, Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller (86) is placed on a cart after injuring his leg in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. For the Super Bowl, there is an Emergency Action Plan, an exhaustive outline that describes who does what in virtually every case of injury or emergency. It's so detailed that it includes arm or hand signals to help all involved determine what action is needed. "The collaborative effort between teams is where it should be ... seamless and flawless," said Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman. The emphasis, of course, is on immediate treatment whenever an injury occurs. The hour-long meeting's value became apparent when Miller dislocated his left knee and tore an artery that supplies blood to the lower leg. Miller could have lost the leg had it not been for the quick action by the well-schooled medical staffs. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

Let’s be honest: the 2017-18 NFL season was terrible. And not just as a Giants fan, but a football fan as a whole. It was a season defined by mediocrity, inconsistent play, controversial calls and above all, devastating injuries to the game’s most exciting stars.

Deshaun Watson, David Johnson, Carson Wentz, Odell Beckham Jr., Dalvin Cook, Julian Edelman, J.J. Watt, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Olsen, Andrew Luck and too many others to list. Even the previously-invincible Joe Thomas had his season cut short due to injury. You could field a legitimate Pro Bowl roster just out of players who suffered major season-ending injuries.

Injuries hurt. They hurt far more than the player or the team; they hurt the entire league. When you tune into an NFL postseason game, you want to watch the best the league has to offer, not a bunch of backups in a battle to see which team is the healthiest remaining. Injuries are inevitable in football, but rarely are they as widespread and destructive as they were this season.

But the NFL season is behind us, and at least we can count on some quality, healthy NBA basketball. No one gets hurt in basketball, right?

Kristaps Porzingis’s ACL would beg to differ. As would Kevin Love’s broken hand, John Wall’s knee, DeMarcus Cousins’s Achilles, Kawhi Leonard’s quad and Mike Conley’s heel. And that’s just the injuries sustained in the past three weeks.

These aren’t just run-of-the-mill role players. These are bona fide superstars who all will miss extended time, if not the entire season, due to injury.

Fortunately, none of those injuries have been particularly gruesome. But if you’re into that sort of thing, don’t worry; there’s been plenty of those as well! Like when Andre Roberson’s leg suddenly decided to stop working mid-jump, Isaiah Canaan’s ankle ceased to exist or Kris Dunn’s face slammed into the floor at the speed of sound.

What is happening?

Well, it may just be reasonably explained as the curse of LeBron’s All-Star Team. Wall, Cousins, Love and Porzingis were all selected by James in the inaugural NBA All-Star Draft, and all have since had to withdraw. The overwhelming reaction pre-injuries was that LeBron’s roster was significantly better. So perhaps this is part of a maniacal plan by Adam Silver to level the playing field and make for a more exciting All-Star game.

More likely, it’s an unfortunate side effect of the NBA’s ever-increasing pace of play. It’s no coincidence that these injuries occurred just before the All-Star break, when the fatigue of the long regular season catches up to players—fatigue which has only been amplified by the quickened pace. It’s also no coincidence that Cousins played more minutes per game this past January than in any other month in his career.

Injuries are inevitable, but seeing a star go down never gets easier. Five years ago, I barely had any idea what an ACL was. Now, I can watch the Porzingis injury—that dreaded non-contact knee buckle—and fearfully diagnose it with near-certainty as a torn ACL.

The sad reality of sports, especially those as physical as football, is that injuries often shape the league far more than the actual talent on rosters. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Titans and Falcons were the healthiest teams in the NFL this season, and both were playoff teams. The Giants, Texans and 49ers were among the most impacted by injury—and we all know how their seasons went.

With major injuries on the rise, it has only become more important for teams to build an insurance plan with a talented group of backups. The (Super Bowl champion) Eagles are a perfect example. After losing their MVP-candidate quarterback midway through the season, they were mostly written off. Instead, Nick Foles played the hero, capping off a great second half with a near-flawless Super Bowl performance.

Injuries aren’t going anywhere, and teams should improve on preparing for the worst-case scenario. We can only hope that we’ll get through the rest of this NBA season with Achilles and ACL’s intact.


Andrew Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at andrew.morrison@uconn.edu. He tweets at @asmor24