Hurt or Injured?
NFL players are extremely competitive and are also very tough both mentally and physically. Football is a high impact collision sport. NFL practices are also very intense even when they are non-contact.
When viewing a game or practice from the sideline there is an obvious sense of extraordinary speed. The NFL game is much faster and more explosive than one can imagine.
Players can react in an instant and change direction on a dime. These types of explosive movements take their toll on one’s body over time. As players work through training camp into the regular season there is not a player who is not sore or in pain.
Playing through soreness and pain is part of the job outside of the glamour, notoriety, and money. The bumps and bruises are normal much like any of us working through the soreness of yesterday’s workout.
Injured players are not the same. Injured players are those who have an injury diagnosed by the trainer or medical staff. There are degrees of injuries from strains and sprains to broken bones. It is the medical staff’s job to determine if the player has enough strength and mobility to play safely in the game without causing more damage.
Contrary to what you might think, it is usually the player who refuses to miss practice time or a game. The training and medical staff are normally quite conservative in the prognosis of returning the athlete to the field.
NFL Concussion Protocol
This procedure must be followed before a player can return to competition. Returning to competition for injuries outside of the concussion protocol is decided by the trainers, players, and coaches. Players are competitive, tough and like soldiers. They are warriors like the competition and do not want to let their team and team members down.
Most great players also have a degree of insecurity and do not want their teammate who will be taking their snaps, also taking their job. It is for these reasons players will compete even when feeling less than 100%.
In my 20-year coaching career in the NFL, there have been more occasions than I can count of the player begging trainers and coaches to play. Even the great players who give a valiant effort and play through pain are not as productive as their backup would have been playing at 100%.
I’m sure anyone reading this has seen players with the club on one hand or other. I am certain you are not an effective player with one hand no matter how talented, compared to a player who can use two hands. Lower body injuries fall into the same category. If you are not at full speed you should not be on the field.
Players who play with injuries not only hurt themselves, but hurt their team as well.
I would urge all coaches to keep their injured players off the field no matter how convincing their sales pitch. Return them to the field only when they are fully recovered for their sake and the team’s.