A hidden factor behind NFL Week 1 injuries?
September 15, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
Every NFL season, there are an inordinately high amount of season-ending injuries during the first week of the regular season and every season the media acts like it’s never happened before (as they did this week) and overreacts (what the media does best).
Of course, the media coverage and ensuing controversy never explores or even mentions one of the driving factors behind Week 1 injuries: the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Depending on your level of pessimism, some/most/all NFL players do a cycle of their performance enhancer of choice in the offseason (either to build muscle mass, which is almost impossible to do during the grind of the regular season, or to speed recovery and healing from the pounding of the just-completed games). Remember, these are the most elite of elite athletes, already genetically prone to muscle growth, and the chemical enhancement can have some mind-blowing effect. The result of the offseason juicing is that a lot of players report to camp with bigger, stronger, more powerful muscles than they left with the year prior. Some of those muscles actually become powerful enough to tear tendons (remember, tendons connect muscle to bone; ligaments connect bone to bone) right off the bone under extreme levels of duress. The athletes have literally created an unnatural amount of force, more than their skeletons were engineered to handle.
And when are these new, juiced up bodies most likely to encounter these extreme levels of duress? For star players who’ve got a roster spot locked up, it’s not in training camp or in the preseason games because they rarely push themselves to true, full capacity. (Although pay attention next year to how many free agents and aging veterans who are fighting for roster spots and do have to go all out in the preseason go down on the first day of camp). No, it’s not until that first real game where players push themselves to really see what their new muscles can do. And … snap, crackle, injured reserve.
As always, this is not meant as an indictment or accusation against any particular player or an assertion that every injury is steroid related (most knee injuries are not). However, when you hear about a ruptured Achilles or a torn bicep or pectoral that occurs on the first day of camp or the regular season, you should raise an eyebrow.