The image is all too familiar: a player in his prime goes down clutching their knee. The reactions from teammates range from visible concern to outright horror. Nowadays, photos and videos are shared all over the internet to send shivers down the spines of fans or even unsuspecting people checking their social media news feeds.
Nick Chubb’s recent brutal knee injury has again spotlighted this issue.
The history of season-ending knee injuries in the NFL is a long one. From Gale Sayers in the 1960s to Willis McGahee’s gruesome injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl (before his NFL career), the list of players impacted by such injuries is long and filled with tales of what might have been.
Some have come back stronger – like Adrian Peterson, who, after tearing his ACL in December 2011, returned the next season to fall just eight yards short of the single-season rushing record. But for others, the road back has been more challenging.
One of the most significant injuries to impact a running back in history was Bo Jackson’s dislocated hip in 1991. The injury led to complications that eventually ended his career. Although not a knee injury, it was getting tackled at the knee that led to the hip dislocation, and the impact it had on a player of Jackson’s caliber was a reminder of the sport’s risks.
In a recent interview, Colts running back Zack Moss provided some insight into this aspect of the game. “It sucks to see that happen to a guy like that who has been at the top of his game for so long,” Moss began. “To have something that was similar to what he had back in college, that was just brutal to watch.” Moss’s sentiments underscore the brotherhood that exists among players, even those on opposing teams. A season-ending injury often supersedes rivalries and brings to the forefront the human side of the sport.
This incident, of course, led to more chatter about Jonathan Taylor. With Chubb out and the Browns signing Kareem Hunt, there had been speculation (media-driven) regarding Taylor’s future and whether he might leave the Colts to join the Browns. This latest signing has effectively squashed those rumors. But one has to wonder how such injuries, like Chubb’s, weigh on the minds of other players, Taylor included, especially as he has been holding out for a lucrative contract extension.
Every snap, every cut, every jump – the risk is there.
Although a small consolation for Chubb, the NFL community is known for rallying around its injured players. Medical science, too, has come a long way since the days of Gale Sayers. Today’s surgical and rehabilitation techniques give players a fighting chance at returning to the field. Only time will tell what lies in store for Nick Chubb.