With so many dings to so many high-profile NFL players this year, it seems like this has got to be the most injurious football season in decades. But despite a list of star-studded casualties, 2015 is on track for the fewest injuries since 2009, according to ManGamesLost.com, which tracks injury trends in the four major American sports.
While the NFL has sent a pile of popular players to the training room, the league is on pace to post 4,309 games lost to injuries this season, a drop of more than 1,000 games missed from the last two years.
Hard to believe, isn't it?
You might be deceived by the sparkle of star power that's being carted off the field this season. Of the NFL's 32 teams, 11 have lost starting QBs for some length of time this year — some significant, some two or three times. The list includes Dallas QB Tony Romo, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, Indianapolis rifleman Andrew Luck, and Denver's aging legend Peyton Manning.
The sting of NFL injuries this season is also magnified by the 50 million of us who play fantasy football. Elite-level athletes have seemed especially hard hit this season, from that group of A-list quarterbacks to the featured running backs who were selected at the top of your draft like Jamaal Charles, Le'Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, and Matt Forte. This season's top fantasy runner, Atlanta's Devona Freeman, was cleared to return to practice this week after missing parts of the last two games with a concussion.
But while your fantasy team may have taken a beating this season, in general, it's shaping up to be a relatively healthy one for most NFL players.
In total, no team this season has been as banged up as the New York Giants, which lead the NFL with 136 games lost to injury so far. That puts Big Blue on pace to finish the season with 197 games lost to injuries. San Francisco was last season's most banged up team with 294 games lost, indicating a significant improvement in player safety.
Overall, NFL teams are on pace to miss an average of 134 games for the entire season, which is down more than 26 percent from 183 a year ago. The 5,878 man-games lost in 2014 represent the most since ManGamesLost.com stated logging the trend six seasons ago.
FootballOutsiders.com, which analyzes NFL injuries and the impact they have on teams, found that overall injuries have also been on the decline the last two years. The site found that the raw number of injuries reported by NFL players plateaued in 2012 and saw slight decreases over the last two seasons.
The decline in NFL injuries continues a trend that has seen fewer concussions and serious knee injuries of late, too. Last season, the NFL reported the number of brain injuries was down 25 percent from 2013 and dipped 36 percent over the previous three years.
ACL injuries have also been on the decline in recent years. But while the NFL reported a decrease from 63 ACL injuries in 2013 to 57 in 2014, studs like Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, Ryan Clady, and Dante Fowler were all lost for the year during the 2015 preseason with knee injuries.
Last season the NFL started electronically monitoring injury data from all 32 teams for the first time, and the technology picked up a 17 percent increase in total football injuries in 2014. That was a bump from 2013, which, you'll remember, was considered one of the costliest seasons in years in terms of injuries to big-time starters like Aaron Rodgers, Vince Wilfork, Doug Martin, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco, Von Miller, Brian Cushing, Geno Atkins, and Sam Bradford, who all missed significant time.
But now the numbers are trending down, for the moment at least. Player safety enhancements, such as a reduction in practice time, rules changes designed to protect runners and receivers, more doctors on the sidelines, and closer monitoring of injuries during games may be contributing to the overall decline in player injuries.
The game may be getting safer, but this season especially, it sure doesn't seem that way.