Football players are more likely to endure ankle injuries and concussion during games played in cold weather than warm weather, according to results from a new study.
The study was published March 31, 2016, in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine.
Canadian researchers looked into the five most common injuries sustained during two NFL seasons between 2012 and 2014.
Players were 1.5 times more at risk of ankle injuries and twice at risk of concussions when the temperature was below 51 degree compared to games played on 70-degree days.
In addition, researchers concluded players were 1.36 times more likely to sustain a shoulder injury when playing on natural versus synthetic grass.
There has been a lot of discussion the past several years regarding the significant health risks of playing in the NFL, including effects of concussions, other injuries, and overall player safety.
According to the researchers, the first step toward improving safety for players and reducing their risks is to identify the factors leading to injuries and the spikes in injury rates. Once those questions are answered, the league can begin to take steps toward preventing or at least minimizing exposure to those risks.
Thus far, there is not a lot of research examining external risk factors for NFL players’ injuries. This is one of the first looks at the variables contributing to injuries.
We can still only speculate on the causes of injuries. This study proved an association between injuries and cold weather. But the cold weather may directly or indirectly lead to injury. The cold weather may reduce the flexibility and give of protective equipment, for example, which can cause or increase the likelihood of injury. Players may also be more likely to report injuries when it’s cold, because on those days they often have more contact with the athletic staff and trainers. Moreover, players may think concussion symptoms are heat-related in warmer weather.
Further research is obviously necessary, but this is a good place to start. It’s incredibly important to understand the cause of injuries so the league can work toward a safer sport.