Injuries, injuries, and more injuries! I despise injuries. Even if I play the latest version of Madden Football with the kids, the first thing I do is select “options”, and set the injuries to “off”. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pick our favorite team and turn the injuries off?
There is much speculation about injury. There is a lot of data to be sorted through and analyzed. There are many variables to account for but, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. Our beloved Colts are more injury-prone than most NFL teams. For years the mantra we’ve heard from the Colts’ front office is “speed over size.”
So, with that in mind, let’s look at physics. We all learned in physics class that Force= Mass X Acceleration or F=MA. So for an object to create more force, it has three options. It can increase its speed, it can increase its mass, or it can increase both. In order to generate more force, then, an object would need to increase one or both of these factors. In football terms, that means that if we had a choice to get hit by a linebacker that weighs 240 pounds or a linebacker that weighs 255 pounds, assuming they are moving at the same rate of speed, we would rather get hit by the lighter linebacker because his total output, or force, will be less. The Colts’ way of thinking is that they want the 240lb linebacker, but they want him to move faster than the 255lb linebacker. In doing so, he would get to the play faster, and with more force.
Read more of the science behind the Colts’ woes after the jump.
However, most plays in the NFL do not require the athlete to reach full speed. Quickness, like that measured in the shuttle run, is much more useful than 40-yard speed, especially as it pertains to certain positions. We always hear “speed is king” but really, quickness and the ability to reach full speed sooner (acceleration) is as important. And some authorities believe it to be the most important aspect a football player can have. One could also argue that if you can’t stay healthy, none of it really matters.
One of the problems with the lighter, faster, more force approach that is used by some teams is injury rate. Some experts feel that this is due to the way the force is disbursed. Meaning, with a smaller frame, the force isn’t as readily absorbed. In short, the force from a hit has to go somewhere and a smaller framed athlete simply does not have as much physical anatomy to disburse the force from a hit. Look no further than former Colt and current Charger strong safety, Bob Sanders. He is the quintessential head-hunter whose body does not seem to be able adapt to the force.
We often hear announcers say “Man, he can really deliver a blow!” Or, “Wow he really took a hit on that one.” The next time you see a crushing hit and they re-play it in slow motion. Watch the athlete on the receiving end of the hit. Watch how the force runs through his body. In truth, our bodies are limited to what they can take, disburse or absorb from a hit. We are all limited somewhat by anatomy and matter. These things are separate from an athletes will and desire to perform and should be treated as such.
There are many factors that contribute to injury. An athlete’s ability to disburse force may play a bigger role in the prevention of injury, and warrants further study. Science and formulas are great but at the end of the day it’s better to be the hammer than the nail.