Positive COVID Tests Aren't the Only Health Concern With Return to College Football

Brooks Austin

This college football offseason has been unlike anything else in recent memory. There was little-to-no spring practice time for the overwhelming majority of the collegiate football world, players were sent home to quarantine for nearly three months during a time period in which they would be on campus going through extensive offseason workouts, and now they are in the middle of an abbreviated and accelerated preseason camp leading up to the presumed start of the season. 

Obviously the sporting world's primary focus is fixed on the test results of COVID-19 within each respective program across the country, but there's another health concern that most aren't discussing: Non-contact injuries. 

Achilles tendon tears, MCL and ACL tears, and any soft tissue ligament that could be exposed due to an altered and shortened offseason, might be compromised at a higher rate than usual. If you don't believe me, just look at history. 

2011 NFL Lockout

The last time the players went on strike in the NFL in 2011 they underwent a similar circumstance in terms of an abbreviated offseason for a much different reason. Their offseason programs were put on hold, they received limited access to team facilities and they were rushed back into preseason camp after an extended time away from the sport. 

What were the results? Well, according to a study done by the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, the Chairman of NFL's Injury and Safety Committee reported an average of eight Achilles tears in a full NFL season. In 2011, there were 10 Achilles tendon injuries in the first 12 days of training camp. 

MLB Experiencing Increased Soft Tissue Injuries

Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber and Clayton Kershaw are all on the MLB injury list as we speak. Verlander suffered a forearm strain during his first outing and will miss several weeks. Kluber tore a muscle in his throwing shoulder just one inning into his season debut on Monday. And Kershaw didn't even get to make his first start before being placed on the IR with a lower back issue. 

Sure, these are baseball players, not football players, and arm injuries aren't commonplace for the sport. Yet, they are happening at an accelerated rate similar to what we saw during the lockout in 2011 with the NFL. 

There's hope

The good news? College football players are a younger demographic and are less likely to suffer such injuries, though the data does show they are at a higher risk of non-contact injuries than ever before. 

Players are back on campus and beginning this week, they are allowed to go through walkthroughs and continue conditioning drills with their coaching staff in attendance, but nothing prepares you for the game of football quite like live bullets. The NCAA has allotted 29 days prior to the first scheduled game for programs to begin preseason practice, which includes a five-day acclimation period. 

Beginning Aug. 7, the college football community will commence the five-day period and beginning ramping up for the season. Those first several weeks of camp are going to be crucial not only for teams and coaches to figure out what they are working with, but to see how the bodies of these players react to a significantly altered offseason. 

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