If you are a fan of the NFL (really who isn’t?) or just hooked on fantasy football, you have more than likely noticed the increase in major injuries to major players thus far this season. In a story titled “Year of the Injury?” Sports Illustrated reported that 10 QB’s had been placed on injured reserve after 13 games, compared to just 2 during the same time frame last season. With all the added emphasis on brain injuries and concussions (see the video below of me discussing NFL Concussions on Good Day LA), rule changes were made to help reduce hits to the head and neck area. As a result, players are aiming lower, resulting in spike of leg injuries, most notably torn knee ligaments including the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). There has been over 50 ACL injuries through the first 13 weeks of the season, with over 30 being confirmed torn ACL’s. In the entire 2011 season there were only 26 torn ACL’s. The NFL is on pace to set a record for knee injuries suffered in one season.

What Causes ACL Injury?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four main ligaments which provide support and structure to the knee. The main function of the ACL is to prevent the tibia from slipping forward, and provides stability in preventing the tibia from twisting towards the body. A hit to the outside of the knee that forces it to twist inward can cause the ACL to tear. It’s often seen when an athlete plants one leg to suddenly change direction, causing the knee ligament to twist inward. It is an extremely painful injury, often accompanied by injuries to other knee ligaments such as the medial meniscus and medial collateral ligament (MCL) – called the “unhappy triad.” An MRI is used to confirm the diagnosis of a torn ACL, and surgery is almost always the treatment of choice, especially in athletes.

Who’s to Blame?

If you ask the players who are on the field dishing out the hits that are causing these injuries, they blame the NFL’s rule changes. Defensive lineman, linebackers, and defensive backs are quick to point the finger at new rules that penalize and fine them for making hits above the shoulders. Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden said “We’re trying to not hit people up high, so when you hit low, you’re hitting them in the legs. You’re hitting them in the knee. It’s not like we’re aiming for the knees or anything like that, but the game’s moving so fast, you’ve got big guys running at you, you’re just trying to take them down. You can’t go high, so you have to go low.” Until the NFL addresses the concerns of its players, lower body injuries, most specifically Knee and ACL injuries, will continue to be a common occurrence unfortunately.