SI Vault
 
WHAT A DOWNER
Paul Zimmerman
October 31, 1988
Why have so many NFL quarterbacks been injured this season? Dr. Z offers one theory—and ideas on how to reverse the trend
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 31, 1988

What A Downer

Why have so many NFL quarterbacks been injured this season? Dr. Z offers one theory—and ideas on how to reverse the trend

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

HIT LIST

The toll of NFL quarterbacks put out of action for one game or more has mounted from week to week

PLAYER

OPPONENT

HOW IT HAPPENED

INJURY

PRESEASON

Scott Campbell (Atl.)

Bucs

Hit by linebacker Ervin Randle while passing

Torn knee ligaments (Out for season)

WEEK 1

Bernie Kosar (Cle.)

Chiefs

Hit by safety Lloyd Burruss while passing

Torn ligament, right elbow (Missed 6 games)

Warren Moon (Hou.)

Colts

Fumbled snap, scrambled, hit by LB Cliff Odom

Fractured right shoulder blade (Missed 5 games)

WEEK 2

Gary Danielson (Cle.)

Jets

Hit by noseguard Gerald Nichols after passing

Fractured left ankle (Out for season)

WEEK 3

Dave Krieg (Sea.)

Chargers

Hit by end Lee Williams after passing

Separated right shoulder (Out 6 to 8 weeks)

Jack Trudeau (Ind.)

Browns

Collapsed in pocket and knee gave way under pressure

Cartilage damage, left knee (Out for season)

WEEK 4

Chris Miller (Atl.)

Cowboys

Sacked by tackles Randy White and Danny Noonan

Sprained left ankle (Missed 3 games)

Wade Wilson (Minn.)

Eagles

Hit on 3-yard TD run by nickelback Terry Hoage

Separated left shoulder (Missed 2 games)

WEEK 5

Bubby Brister (Pitt.)

Browns

Rolled out and fell over defensive lineman

Dislocated finger on passing hand (Missed 3 games)

Eric Hipple (Det.)

49ers

Sacked by linebacker Charles Haley

Broken left ankle (Out for season)

Randy Wright (G.B.)

Bucs

Throwing deep pass, no contact

Torn groin muscle (Missed 3 games)

WEEK 6

Chuck Long (Det.)

Bears

Hit by end Richard Dent after passing

Partially torn ligament in left kn (Out 4 to 6 weeks)

Babe Laufenberg (S.D.)

Saints

Hit by linebacker Sam Mills after passing

Separated rib cartilage (Missed 2 games)

Mike Pagel (Cle.)

Seahawks

Making tackle after blocked field goal return

Separated right shoulder (Out 4 to 6 weeks)

Cody Carlson (Hou.)

Steeiers

Hit teammate Bruce Davis's helmet while passing

Dislocated right thumb (Missed 2 games)

WEEK 7

Danny White (Dal.)

Bears

Hit after passing by tackle Steve McMichael

Sprained right knee (Out 4 to 6 weeks)

John Elway (Den.)

Falcons

Rolled on by tackle Tony Casillas after releasing pass

Sprained ankle and knee (Missed 1 game)

Mark Rypien (Wash.)

Cardinals

Hit on rollout by linebacker Ricky Hunley and end Rod Saddler

Bruised ribs (Missed one game)

Steve Oils (Atl.)

Broncos

Specific play unknown

Cracked bone, right wrist (Out 4 to 6 weeks)

Down go the quarterbacks. Sometimes one per game. Sometimes two. Sometimes bunches. Down they go. It's another one of those years. By the end of the seventh week, 19 of them had been knocked out of action for one game or more. The Cleveland Browns had three quarterbacks out at one time, and for that reason their payroll lists five at the position, drawing a combined salary of $2.39 million. The Detroit Lions are down to a third-stringer, and so were the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the season. And when the Chicago Bears played the Lions on Oct. 9, every quarterback on both rosters saw action.

So what should the NFL do to keep the poor devils from becoming extinct? Change the rules? Draft steelworkers to play the position? Put a Red Cross insignia on every quarterback and tell defensive players, "Hands off"?

"Before making any kind of judgment, before becoming an alarmist, look at the genesis of the injuries and see if there's any trend," says New York Giants general manager George Young. "Until you have that information, you can't progress."

That's exactly what we've done. We took a look at the quarterbacks who have been felled this year, including the Atlanta Falcons' Scott Campbell, who tore knee ligaments late in the preseason, and examined how they were injured (see box, page 20). The survey doesn't include the Washington Redskins' Doug Williams, who missed four weeks because of an appendectomy. Here's the picture through Week 7:

Type of Action Causing Injury—Hit behind the line while throwing or just after the ball was released: 9. Hit while scrambling or running downfield: 4. Hit while throwing on a scramble: 1. Sacks: 2. Freak plays: 2 (the Browns' Mike Pagel separated a shoulder while making a tackle on a blocked kick return, and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Bubby Brister fell over a player on the ground). Noncontact injuries: 2 (the Green Bay Packers' Randy Wright suffered a pulled groin muscle and the Colts' Jack Trudeau cartilage damage in his left knee after collapsing under pressure).

Type of Player (or Object) Hit by—Linebacker: 5. Defensive lineman: 8. Defensive back: 2. Helmet: 1.

Part of the Body Injured—Knee: 5. Shoulder and/or shoulder blade: 4. Ankle: 4. Wrist, hand and/or finger: 3. Ribs: 2. Groin: 1. Elbow: 1. Total: 20 (Denver Broncos' John Elway was injured in more than one area).

What does this tell us? It shows that 4½ times as many quarterbacks got hurt while throwing or just after throwing than while being sacked. There were no head injuries that required a player to sit out the following week.

Some other interesting data:

•No penalties were called on any of the plays that resulted in injury.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4