Placekicker injuries common in NFL modern era

by on January 8th, 2015
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Placekickers in the NFL aren’t the first players that most fans think of regarding major injuries in the league. Yet on the first play in the San Diego Chargers’ opening day win against Minnesota, kicker Nate Kaeding injured his knee trying to tackle Percy Harvin on his 103-yard return for a touchdown.

ESPN reports Kaeding tore his anterior cruciate ligament when he planted his foot. He didn’t even make contact with a player. Yet the kicker’s injury is more common than what some fans may realize.

Relevant Examples

In November 2010, ESPN reported Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots was lost for the season when he suffered a thigh injury. His torn muscle required surgery to repair. Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos was placed on injured reserve a month later when he had a groin injury.

Placekickers spend a lot of their time practicing, warming up and also do kickoffs. Rarely are they called on to actually make a play and tackle someone. Despite their somewhat tame jobs of simply kicking a football, placekickers have suffered many injuries in the NFL’s modern era.

Injury Frequency

The National Institutes of Health published a study in June 2010 regarding placekicker injuries. The study authors looked back on cases over the previous 20 years of NFL seasons. What they found was remarkable.

There were 488 instances of NFL kickers being injured. That’s almost 25 injuries per year. If you take into account 30 NFL teams, that means nearly every team had some kind of injury to a placekicker during a season.

Luckily, NFL kickers often don’t suffer season-ending injuries. A vast majority of the injuries (93%) were minor and the kickers were back in just over two weeks. Most of the injuries occurred in games rather than practice. The study further determined that younger kickers under the age of 30 rebound from their injuries in almost half the time as older kickers.

Injuries that require surgery usually take over 120 days to heal. The most common types of injuries are to the muscles and tendons below the waist. When Kaeding went down with a torn ACL, it was perhaps the rarest kind of injury to a kicker. The remedy proposed by the study is to simply stay in better shape through training is the easiest way to prevent injuries in placekickers.

Despite recent dramatic examples such as Kaeding, Prater and Jostkowski, placekickers have the fewest injuries among all NFL players. Often, their injuries are overlooked because they rarely cause hardships to their teams.

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