Using data from Spotrac.com (player on IR listed with knee-acl as the injury), I have compiled a view of torn ACLs in the NFL over the past ten seasons. The Broncos have had 26 players on the season-ending IR with torn ACLs over the past 10 season (including the current unfinished season) which leads the league.
The most for any team in any season over this timespan was eight for the Chargers in 2016. That was more than half of their total for the entire time block and they had zero in the two years prior and in the year after. The Saints have only had six in ten seasons, which is the same number that Broncos had in 2020.
The data from Spotrac apparently only includes preseason and regular season since they did not capture the post-season ACL tear that Chris Harris Jr suffered in 2013. Harris suffered a torn ACL in January of 2014 in the playoff win over the Chargers. He would be fully recovered by the start of the 2014 season and would start all 16 regular season games for the Broncos that season and make his first Pro-Bowl appearance. Because he was never placed on the season-ending IR for the 2013 season, he does not show up on Spotrac.
There is some discrepancy between the numbers available at NFL.com, the numbers from the article in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, and the numbers from Spotrac.com so I have compiled them all to show a table of comparative values. I find it interesting that NFL appears to over-report relative to the other two sources.
The most worrisome thing to me as a Broncos’ fan about the data above is that there appears to be an inflexion point in 2017 or 2018. Prior to that time, the Broncos appeared to be fairly “normal” relative to the rest of the league in terms of players tearing their ACLs. After that point, the rate at which these injuries are occurring to Denver Broncos has been terrible.
You can speculate on causes if you wish. Maybe it’s just bad luck? Maybe the Broncos have been drafting players with a history of knee problems? We have, but I don’t know if other teams do the same.
I don’t have a degree in physical therapy or sports medicine. so I have not read the literature to see if there is any type of exercise or stretching or nutrition that can increase ligament durability. Head strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Broncos, Loren Landow, appears to believe that there is. This is from his bio at Simplifaster:
In addition to his expertise on biomechanics and maximizing athletic performance, Coach Landow is known for his emphasis on injury prevention and rehabilitation. He developed the ACL prevention program and the ACL return to sport protocols for the world-renowned Steadman Hawkins Clinic.
From the outside it appears that Landow was hired for his abilities to help Denver players avoid tearing ligaments in their knees. Landow is literally part of the ACL Club, a consortium of experts on preventing ACL tears and rehabbing ACL injuries.
Is there anything that Loren Landow could have done to prevent the ACL tear pandemic that the Broncos have suffered over the last five+ seasons?
This poll is closed
As was pointed out by others on Twitter, not all ACL tears are the same. Some occur on grass, some on turf. Some are contact injuries while others (like Tim Patrick’s and Von Miller’s) are non-contact. If I had the time, I’d try and find the situation behind all 33 that have occurred this season in the NFL, and possibly find the context for all 363 that have happened during the pre- and regular season since 2013 inclusive. However, I don’t have that amount of time and I don’t want to deprive a graduate student in sports medicine from having a topic for his or her masters thesis.