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Injuries are an inevitable part of professional football, but the number and severity of injuries this season. Week 8 brought some of the most gruesome injuries of the season with several key players ending up sidelined for the season despite NFL rules designed to protect the health of players.
One of the most high-profile injuries was to running back Le'Veon Bell during the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Bengals defender Vontaze Burfict was involved in the hit, which landed Bell on injured reserve and outraged his fans and teammates. Since Burfict has a history of dirty hits and fines for intentionally harming players, the injury was a particularly tough pill to swallow.
Later, Seattle Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette suffered a terrifying blindside hit during punt coverage that left him immobilized on the field. Though he had full motion and feeling in his extremities, Lockette's injury was still severe. He underwent surgery for ligament damage in his neck and will miss the rest of the season. In fact, his future in football is in doubt, according to Sports Illustrated.
Another injury expected more after a car accident than a football game, a lacerated kidney sidelined Chargers' Keenan Allen for the season, In the case of Allen, a jarring landing during a touchdown reception was the cause of the injury.While not as overtly violent as the injuries to Bell and Lockette, damage to an internal organ is very serious.
Bell, Lockette, and Allen were only a few of the Week 8 casualties, Steve Smith of the Baltimore Ravens suffered a torn Achilles, the same injury that sidelined his teammate Terrell Suggs earlier in the season. These players represent only a small fraction of high-profile players suffering serious injuries during the 2015 season. As the NFL continues to enact and enforce rules designed to protect players on the field, there seem to be more injuries than ever to star players.
Former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn suggested yesterday that the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are at the cause of the injury epidemic. While the injuries to Bell, Lockette, and Allen do not fall into this category, ligament and tendon injuries, such as the one suffered by Steve Smith, can happen when muscles develop more quickly than a player's infrastructure.
The types of injuries this year are highly varied, and some are inevitable in a violent contact sport where hulking men throw their bodies at one another play after play. In Week 8 alone, seven players sustained concussions and eight sustained knee injuries, including Bell, Reggie Bush, and Matt Forte.
Players can focus on conditioning and the NFL can attempt to adjust rules to protect players, but even with the best preparation and intention, there will continue to be injuries week after week. While the number of injuries to high-profile players and the gruesome nature of some of the injuries is worrisome, they aren't surprising. Football is a violent sport, on that takes a huge toll on athletes' bodies. Hopefully Week 9 will not be as catastrophic as Week 8, but as the season progresses, it is a near-given that other high-profile players will see the end of their seasons, and maybe even their careers.