On What It Means To Be Injury-Prone, And How To Fix It

The term “injury-prone” tends to get thrown around often—perhaps more often than it should—whenever the topic of discussion is players who have suffered multiple injuries in their careers. The term has come to be a pejorative, and is used in that fashion, often hastily, to portray a player in a bad light.

Early on in his career, inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons was tagged by some as prone to injury after missing the season opener in 2009 as he looked to take over the starting lineup. He missed two games that year and started only 13, but he ended up recording a career-high seven sacks and a career-high four forced fumbles. He has not missed a game since.

Most recently, rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier was the victim of a number of injuries during his first year, which caused him to miss about half of the season. While it’s foolish to peg somebody as injury-prone after one season—even if that season included multiple injuries—his case does touch upon the agency that players have in some instances when it comes to staying healthy.

Shazier’s injuries occurred in or around piles, and Jerry Olsavsky, the team’s inside linebackers coach, believes that he has the ability to reduce his chances of injury in these circumstances in the future.

This is a different sense of being prone to injury than what is generally meant when the term is used, especially in a particularly pejorative context. The general spirit in which it tends to be used is typically in reference to bodily instability and durability issues, rather than circumstantial awareness.

And that is the type of injury proneness that Shazier is trying to avoid by increasing his circumstantial awareness. Earlier this offseason, Olsavsky told reporters that Shazier “has to clean some things up so he can get a little faster on the top end and a little cleaner in the pile”.

The key reference is, of course, to the latter half of the quote, which the inside linebackers coach referring to Shazier’s ability to keep his legs out of danger by keeping his feet moving and his eyes scanning when he is in tight quarters.

Another player that has been referred to as injury-prone over the past several seasons is right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who has dealt with many injuries of his own, but has also been involved in the injuries of multiple teammates.

Gilbert has battled injuries every season of his career, including four games missed last season after he banged knees with Ramon Foster in practice. He also collided with Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro in separate instances during the 2012 season, in addition to David Johnson.

While it would be unfair to blame everything on the player, the circumstantial and cumulative evidence lends ample credence to the notion that Gilbert has had to improve his situational mobility over the past couple seasons in order to keep himself and his teammates clean in tight quarters.

This is a skill that can be learned, and doing so can clear up misperceptions about a player’s propensity to be injured, or to injure others, as the case might be.

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