Oh hell. Here I was, thinking I wasn’t going to write anything about football, mostly because I thought I had nothing left to say.
Seems I do.
Because my team, the Giants, has been afflicted by a slew of injuries and because football commentators and reporters aren’t covering them in any depth…
A few weeks ago, one of my Giants, Logan Ryan, a Jersey boy, a defensive back and a Rutgers grad who — must be the Jersey boy aspect of him — speaks out when he has something to say, questioned the Met Life Stadium turf which the team plays on.
Players are not supposed to say things like this in public but I’m glad he did. I’d been thinking of writing something about this myself. Logan has prompted me to do so.
And the other day, Carl Banks, now a broadcaster and businessman but once number 58, a great linebacker, wrote on Twitter:
The amount of Quad, Hamstring, Calf injuries *in-season* around the #nfl has me totally perplexed. Nutrition and sports science is at a all time high, and so many players are missing multiple games.. why?
At last at least one person on the Giants’ beat press is paying attention. Paul Schwartz (the New York Post — he’s the only person I read in the Post) wrote this in his column [my bolding]:
Is the ever-growing injury report a case of bad luck, bad information, a too-cautious approach, too much, too little? Each game, it seems, who is not playing for the Giants is a bigger story than who is. Something has to be done about this, because it severely compromises the chances for success.
There are only a couple of ways of watching a football game. Fans (and too many commentators and reporters) watch one way, the W/L way. Not a lot of nuance there. If your team wins, they’re mighty, if they lose, they stink.
Obviously, not a lot of deep thought comes out of the W/L mentality.
Football professionals tend to watch and re-watch the game analytically and diagnostically. A football professional taught me how to watch the game.
There’s a default response made by coaches when a gifted player goes out with an injury. “It’s the next man up,” they all say stoically. I’m quite sure away from cameras and lip readers they’re groaning as loudly as the rest of us. Because it’s not easy to replace a star player. Once in a while, it’ll happen that the “next guy up” will become a star on his own, but that’s moderately unusual, for a bunch of reasons.
When I see so many injuries, I consider the type of injury. And then, in my genetically imposed tikkun olam — repairing the world — mode, I think through possible causes and remedies.
Ankle and knee injuries
Lately, I’ve seen quite a few ankle twists during games. It seems to me a number of ankles are getting sprained not because another player banged them or fell on them, or because the player makes a move that bends his ankle in a way an ankle is not meant to bend.
What I’m seeing strengthens Logan Ryan’s comment: it looks like feet are sticking in the turf just as the player is trying to make a move. Depending on that move, turf behaving like Velcro could also tear knee cartilage which usually ends a player’s season.
Although the aforementioned football professional told me years ago that data disproved players’ belief that turf caused injuries, I’m not sure, certainly not sure about today’s turf. I’d like to see the NFL do a thorough study linking each playing field surface to injuries. (I’ve looked at nfl.com and couldn’t find anything on this topic and there was no search function.) If such a study showed even minimal evidence that grass is the safer surface, grass fields should be mandated by the NFL.
I gather a grass field is more expensive to maintain than turf. Football team owners are very, very rich. Very, very, very rich. They’re so rich because of their players. If their players prefer grass, the owners can afford grass.
Hamstrings, quads and other muscles
Decades ago, my brother decided to add running to his health regimen. The day after his first run, his legs were so painful he could barely move. A friend said to him, “Didn’t you stretch?” No; he hadn’t. He started to stretch; he was never again immobilized after running.
In the ’80s, I worked for a company with a large gym and full-time trainer. I began to work out on a Nautilus circuit.
Our trainer showed us how to stretch before and after workouts. Since I’d been doing yoga for years, I immediately discarded the trainer’s stretches and replaced them with my own yoga stretching. The only problem I ever had was a painful back spasm after using the Nautilus back machine. I eliminated the machine from my regimen and eased through the back problem with yoga-type stretches, instead of bed rest, heating pads and meds.
Yoga-type stretches involve slow movements into stretching a muscle (taut, but not painfully taut), and holding for a full minute.
A number of years ago, the Giants brought in a couple of yoga teachers as team instructors. I don’t believe the experiment lasted longer than a year. Not macho enough, I bet.
Too bad. I’ve watched brief videos labeled, “Players stretching pre-workout,” and can say with some authority the kind of stretching they’re doing is “stretching.” This year, certain players have repeatedly suffered from hamstring pulls.
Someone should talk to the trainers about stretching.
Uniforms and equipment
I know almost nothing about this. But, in conjunction to my thoughts about turf-as-Velcro, I’m wondering whether changing the type and length of cleats might have an effect.
P.S. The Giants beat the Eagles last Sunday. Yesterday was my birthday. When the Giants win close to my birthday, I consider it their gift to me. Thank you, guys.