Matthew Stafford, Bob Sanders, Greg Oden: Is Injury Prone a Real Problem?

Zack PumerantzAnalyst IIIJanuary 27, 2011

Oft-Injured All-Pro Safety Bob Sanders
Oft-Injured All-Pro Safety Bob SandersRonald Martinez/Getty Images

As he awkwardly fell to the turf and rolled over in agony, it became clear that this would be another lost season for second-year quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft had shown immense promise in his first two seasons, albeit playing only 10 games in his rookie year and three in 2010.

He might be considered one of the best young signal-callers in the league, if only he could stay on the field. However, he is not the first to have consistent injury problems and it is only a matter of time before owners start having aneurysms over the mind-boggling injuries that seem to linger with certain players.

But is being injury-prone real?

Injury-prone is a phrase loosely tossed around in the sports world, but is it one-dimensional or does it involve many factors?

While many see injuries as purely physical, being labeled as injury-prone involves more. Although the physical aspect is clearly significant, there is also a mental aspect to it that is overlooked and could be just as significant.

Greg Oden is a perfect example of a player that fits the injury-prone mold.

Having missed his rookie season in 2007 after having micro-fracture surgery on his knee, Oden came back the next season and injured his left knee numerous times.

In 2010, he had the same surgery on his left knee and was out for the season yet again. Physically, one might wonder how a 7’1” center who weighs 290 lbs has recurring injuries. This is where the mental aspect comes into play.

Chad Pennington is another example of a fragile NFL quarterback who can’t stay healthy.

Once seen as the potential franchise quarterback of the New York Jets, Pennington was never a gunslinger but rather a guy who excelled in the short, accurate passing game. Even though he appeared to always be respectful to his shoulder, his body didn’t respond well, and he was re-injured every season.

When quarterbacks are young, coaches teach them how to fall correctly. There is a way to get tackled, and it seems they occasionally forget, as seen with Eli Manning when he slid headfirst and fumbled in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

In certain situations though, the player might not have healed correctly from the previous injury and could suffer in the future as a result, causing injuries to recur.

Certain players seem to play harder and get injured because of their reckless and aggressive play. Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders is a prime example. He is injured every year because of his relentless style of play.

At the same time though, Troy Polamalu plays with the same intensity and does not seem to be injured nearly as much. This begs the question of whether injuries affect a player's psyche.

The mental aspect can have an effect on a player who continues to get injured because sports involve split-second decisions and slight hesitation could cause an injury. Given the fear of another injury, a player might subconsciously change his style. Physically, who’s to say that Kobe Bryant’s bones are stronger than Greg Oden’s? However, Oden is consistently injured and Kobe rarely misses a game.

The mental aspect is more significant because it changes the whole perception of the player. With continuous injuries, a player almost expects to get injured again and plays timidly as a result.

While there isn’t a concrete answer for what being injury-prone truly involves, it is clear that there are many factors at play. It’s a phenomenon that seems to stay with certain players and not with others. It has ruined careers and threatened others. Doctors can attempt to predict injuries and how long players will last but they will be scratching their heads behind closed doors.

Ask any of its victims… being injury-prone is mysterious territory. The only certainty is that injury-prone is real, very real.