I recently asked Dr. Nirav Pandya, MD to shed light on the 49ers pattern of non-contact offseason injuries that require surgery. Here are my three big takeaways from that interview.
1. The 49ers have to stop acquiring players who have a history of soft-tissue injuries.
That's because lots of the players who suffer non-contact soft-tissue injuries in practice have suffered those kinds of injuries in the past. Take Jalen Hurd, the 49ers third-round pick in 2019. He was rehabilitating a torn meniscus when they drafted him. So it should have been no surprise when last year, 2020, he tore his ACL while running on a side field during training camp. The 49ers need to stop getting players like Hurd.
2. The 49ers should encourage their players to workout at the team facility as much as possible.
When they're at the facility, they're given a training regimen and are supervised to make sure they're working out correctly. When players are away from the facility, there is no way for the 49ers to know which players are overtraining, which players are undertraining and which ones are simply training incorrectly. The 49ers are in the dark. So when the players meet up for OTAs or training camp, and the coaches make them do the same things on the field, they're not all in the same shape, and people get injured. The 49ers should use all the time the NFL allows them to spend with their players. They should not end spring practices two weeks early and send players home to workout by themselves.
3. The 49ers should have less explosive competition in the spring and longer practices with more rest periods in training camp.
The focus of the spring should be preparing the players' bodies to last a full 17-game schedule. Meaning the focus should be strength training and recovery. Explosive competition is counterproductive in June. It leads to injury, and no one makes a team based on something he did in a spring practice.
In training camp, the 49ers should do what Jim Harbaugh did -- have long, three-hour practices with rest periods. Do not condense a full practice down to 90 minutes as Kyle Shanahan has done every year. Slow it down. Give the players a chance to recover so they don't pull hamstrings and tear ACLs.
Let's see if the 49ers make any of these changes.