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Why offensive line is football's most dangerous position

Linemen sustain the most injuries according to Journal of Physical Activity and Health


Champaign, IL—Among the football fans, players, and coaches turning their attention to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis, many keeping an eye on the workouts and top performers will undoubtedly be interested high school football players. While football remains the most popular boys’ sport in the United States, with more than 1.1 million high school participants during the 2009-10 academic year alone, injuries sustained by high school athletes, especially those playing football, have become a deep-rooted public health concern. Estimates indicate more than 1.4 million high school sports related injuries occur each year.

A new article published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health examines the epidemiology of 10,000 high school football injuries to determine if there were patterns of injury by position played. Participating athletic therapists reported the injury rate was 4.08 per 1,000 athlete-exposures overall, with injuries more commonly occurring in competition. Offensive lineman (center, offensive guard, and offensive tackle) sustained the most injuries (18.3%) of all positions, however running back had the highest percentage of injury for any one position (16.3%).

Further research noted that the three most common body sites injured were the knee (15.4%), ankle (13.3%), and head/face (12.9%). Diagnoses most common to football players were strain/sprain (43%), contusion (15%), and concussion (12.5%). Surgery was required for 6.5% of injuries overall, with defensive ends having the lowest proportion of injuries necessitating surgical procedures and tight ends having the largest proportion.

Proving to be the leading mechanism of injury is football’s full-contact nature, with player-player contact accounting for 64% of all injuries and 13.4% of injuries attributed to player-surface contact. More specifically, being tackled (24.4%) and tackling (21.8%) accounted for a majority of the injuries.

“High school football injury patterns vary by position and identifying such differences is the important first step in the development of evidence-based, targeted injury prevention efforts,” says Marcus Badgeley, the lead researcher of the study. “Given our findings, coaches should teach student athletes football position-specific techniques to prevent, or lessen the severity of injuries.”

For more information, see the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

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