Randon Hall, MD
5 Reasons Eagles Fans are Wrong about Medical Staff
Updated: Dec 21, 2019
As a lifelong Eagles fan, I am as frustrated as anyone about the number of injuries that have piled up over the last few seasons. The primary reason being that we will never know how dominant the Eagles could be if they were healthy. However, week after week, year after year there is a constant clamor about how “atrocious” the Eagles medical staff is in regard to injury management.
The idea that the medical staff is to blame is not only misguided, frankly, its categorically wrong.
A Look at the Data
Any Eagles fan knows that if you are looking for data you need to turn to Reuben Frank @RoobNBCS. His recent article looks at “Why Does Every Eagles Player Always Get Hurt” delves into some of the nitty-gritty details.
An NFL analytics site, Football Outsiders, determined that Eagles had the most games lost last season after ranking 13th in 2017. Eagles players missed a combined 118 games in 2017, 215 in 2018 and 158 so far this year. That's nearly 500 games missed.
Change in Medical Staff
As was also reported, the medical staff is completely changed after the 2017 season. The changes include the athletic training staff as well as team physicians. This is the first point that makes the concern for fault in the medical staff quite ridiculous. In 2017 Eagles are 13th ranked in games lost and in 2018 you are #1. So you change the entire staff that you faulted for the woes of 2017, namely Carson Wentz, and the “injury situation” gets worse. So the logical conclusion is to continue to blame the medical staff, unlikely.
Athletes Have Choice
Secondly, as we have seen with the Dante Fowler case as clearly stated on the NFLPA's official website, NFL team officials "cannot indicate workouts are anything other than voluntary." Additionally, NFL teams cannot "require rehabilitation or medical appointments at team facilities during the offseason and pre-training camp period," (CBS Sports) Therefore, no athlete is required to even do anything with the team’s medical staff for a larger majority of the year. The reality is that most athletes have their own personal trainers so let’s start there is we are talking injury prevention. If there is actually an injury, again, most athletes get a second opinion even for simple straightforward injuries. If athletes don’t have any requirement to use the medical staff in the offseason or even go to appointments and routinely get second opinions, how does that fall on the Eagles medical staff?
Third, everyone wants to neglect the ability of the medical staff to recover the athletes when they do get an injury. People love to say they are just elite athletes. Guess what? Their tissues heal just like every other healthy human being on earth. Here are a few that returned early, on time or avoided surgery.
Carson Wentz returns from an ACL/LCL at 10 months
Tim Jernigan returns from fractured foot at 6 weeks
Brandon Brooks returns after Achilles Rutprue 8 months
Cre’Von Leblanc returns after Lisfranc injury at 4 months (Jenkins, Alshon and Cam Newton all needed surgery)
Avonte Maddox returns after significant neck injury/concussion at 4 weeks
Nate Sudfeld returns from distal radius fracture at 7 weeks
Fourth, there are simply some injuries that can’t be avoided and the medical staff can only do so much. Case in point is shoulder instability associated with shoulder dislocations. For all evidence available seems clear that both Corey Clement and Jordan Howard are dealing with consequences of a shoulder dislocation. What people don’t understand is that once this occurs, the likelihood of repeat dislocation is very high, over 90%. It also is very position-dependent, athletes that need to put their hands up over their head to catch a ball really have no option for significant brace or support. Therefore, it really doesn't matter what medical staff was treating, it was going to be a prolonged issue.
Fifth, no one wants to talk about the success that the Eagles have had. On average there is about 7 concussion per team, which typically cause loss of multiple games. From my current data, Eagles have had 4 concussions this year including preseason (Maddox, Johnson, Grugier-Hill, Kessler). In addition, ACL injuries are down across the league with Eagles having only 1 in Joe Ostman.
Keep in mind that lots of injury information comes from the media and the coaches, who although are knowledgeable, aren’t medically trained. We may never know the crucial details that drive the decisions made by the medical staff. Also, the staff can’t discuss/defend the actual diagnosis and treatments that might clearly and rationally explain why they are not to blame. The point is everyone wants to blame someone, but sometimes there is no explanation and the random order of things just works out the way it does.