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NFL Injuries

In the NFL, injuries are so common that as much as 90% of players report at least one injury during their career. Keep up with the latest injuries in football, learn about the most common injuries in the NFL, and how NFL player injuries can impact sports betting.

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NFL Injuries

You don’t need a medical degree to bet on NFL games, but this handy guide to the league’s most common injuries will sharpen your game.

The National Football League is without a doubt the most popular league for online sports betting in North America. It’s also the most dangerous – for the players, that is. Football is the king of sports-related injuries; every time you turn around, someone on your favorite team is getting carted off the field.

This means you have to be on your toes when you’re making your bets on your favorite betting sites, even if you are using OddsTraders NFL computer-generated picks.

Keeping track of who’s in and out of the lineup is vital to the health of your bankroll. The football reports on the NFL Network will give you some of the information you need; local papers (which you can access on the Web) are even better.

But what do you do with that information? That’s where we come in. The OddsTrader injuries report will help you sort out the signal from the noise with the latest information.

On top of that, we’ll give you a useful framework for thinking about player health in general with this guide. Then we’ll dig into the finer details of specific injuries and their impact on the NFL odds.

A Majority of Player Injuries Occur Before the NFL Season Starts

To get a really good overall perspective on NFL injuries, it’s important to understand what happens to players throughout the year, and not just during the season itself. According to the league’s 2019 report on player health and safety, more time is lost to “lower extremity soft tissue injuries” suffered in the early days of training camp than any other injury.

These soft tissue injuries include strained hamstrings and groins, which are difficult to manage and can linger for weeks, even months. They start piling up after the three-day “acclimation period” at the start of camp, then ramp up between Days 5 and 10 on the practice field.

The injuries mount in number and severity as each team prepares for its season opener. There are 53 players maximum (plus a 16-man practice squad) on a regular-season roster, but teams start at 90 players for their first preseason games, then trim down gradually before making the final cut to 53 after the preseason finale. This is one of the big reasons why there are so many injuries before the regular season kicks off.

The other big reason is these additional players are by nature less physically gifted and less prepared for the rigors of NFL football. Many of them will fall to injury before the preseason opener, or will only be healthy enough to be a limited participant as they fight for a roster spot.

You don’t have to keep track of every single player on the preseason roster just because they happen to be a participant in practice. But it’s still a good idea to keep track of our reports during training camp; some bigger names will inevitably get hurt, and if you’re on top of that information, you’ll be one step ahead of all those casual fans in the NFL betting market.

Understanding the NFL PUP List

Because there’s such a demand for league updates on injuries, the NFL has put together a system to help people understand who’s hurt, how badly, and for how long. Sports-related injuries come in different levels of severity; if you suffer a major injury during training camp that will keep you off the field for a while, you might be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, aka the PUP list.

Players who land on the PUP list are not allowed to practice or play during the first six weeks of the regular season. Once that time frame is up, those players must either be placed on the Return List in order to return to practice, be cut from the team, or be placed on the dreaded Injured Reserve list for a minimum of four weeks. These players still aren’t allowed to practice with their teams, but they can’t be cut, either, and they don’t count toward the 53-man roster limit.

Once a player is deemed fit to come off the PUP list and return to practice, the team has three weeks to either put them on the active roster or on injured reserve. There’s also a Non-Football Injury (NFI) list for players who get hurt away from the field – say, in a car accident. The rules for the NFI list that team officials need to follow are the same as those for the PUP list, with the same requirements for the timetable for return.

Again, paying close attention to the official site reports will help you keep track of who’s starting the season on the PUP list, and who’s on the IR/Non-Football Injury list moving forward.

The Most Common NFL Injuries

In addition to those soft tissue injuries mentioned above, NFL players are subject to a litany of aches and pains throughout the year, some more severe than others. Understanding this can be critical when betting on player props, for example. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common NFL injuries:

Knee Injuries

Sprained and torn knee ligaments (ACL, MCL, PCL) happen all the time in sports. Depending on the severity of the knee injury, the timetable for return can range from 2-12 weeks. An MCL sprain in the right knee or left knee, for example, usually takes an average of six weeks to heal, but the exact return time can vary depending on different factors. It’s harder to pin down an exact return date from injuries like dislocated kneecaps, but these can be season-ending.

Ankle and Foot Injuries

Sprained ankles are the most common ankle injury in the National Football League, although not as common as in the NBA – there’s less back-pedaling in football, aside from the players in the secondary. These could take just two weeks to recover from, or four weeks if it’s a high-ankle sprain; major foot issues like Jones fractures can take eight weeks or even end a season. Other ankle issues can take a variable amount of time to recover from.


These are the bane of NFL players. We have a much better understanding these days of how serious head injuries are, as well as league concussion protocols that players have to clear before they’re allowed to return to the field according to the NFL’s concussion protocol – although teams seem all too willing to fudge those rules. Players often return from concussions after missing just a single game.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder issues aren’t as much of a big deal in football, but if you happen to be in the trenches – either a lineman or a tight end – the act of blocking can result in all sorts of sprains and contusions. Dislocated shoulders can also occur from landing on a hard playing surface, especially on artificial turf. If a player suffers a shoulder injury, they could be out for around eight weeks if it’s a typical tear.

Other Injuries

There are too many injuries in the NFL to cover in detail, but they include – and are not limited to – the following notable injuries:

  • Elbow injury
  • Calf injury, or other calf issues
  • Quad injury
  • Hip injury
  • Bone bruise
  • Ribs injury
  • Joint injuries
  • Tendon injuries, including tendon ruptures
  • Hamstring injury, or other hamstring issues
  • Oblique injury
  • Neck injury
  • Abdominal injury
  • Chest injury

The actual recovery time for each of these injuries depends on the severity, what point in the season it occurred, the overall health of the player, and whether or not they had a successful surgery. If there wasn’t a successful surgery, that can potentially end a player’s career. Having said that, an injury like cracked ribs can linger much the same way as a torn hamstring or a groin injury, even more so if the player in question is rushed back onto the field too quickly. The rate of injury for each of these issues also varies greatly depending on a variety of factors.

Most Frequently Injured Player Positions in the National Football League

The quarterback is the player most people are paying attention to when they watch football, and they do indeed get hurt a lot; a Football Outsiders report from 2015 showed that NFL quarterbacks have about a 55% chance of landing on the injury report. But QBs weren’t No. 1 on their list. Defensive backs, linebackers, running backs, receivers and tight ends checked in at about 65-70%, followed by linemen at 60%.

Even though punts and kick-offs are some of the most dangerous plays in football, special teams players were relatively untouched at 25%; newer league rules on kick-off distance have helped stem the injury tide. But whatever position it may be, always consult those official site reports to see what the prognosis is for the individual player in question.

How Player Injuries Affect Betting Odds

This is where the rubber meets the road. The top online sportsbooks (including FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook) set their NFL odds based on the activity of the betting market, moving them up and down as the action comes in on either side. Casual fans aren’t necessarily great judges of professional football players; they’ll usually overreact when a star player goes down or will be unaware of how limited those players are when they return to the field. Their uneducated betting action will often move the NFL lines too far in one direction or the other.

Many betting markets can be affected by player injuries, particularly player props (such as how many field goals a player will score), but which team will win a game can also be heavily influenced by player injuries.

The best way to take advantage is to gather as much good information as possible. Don’t just rely on the NFL Network for your injury news; follow the local papers and see what details they have to report, and use advanced stats to get a better sense of how well the back-ups are performing relative to the people they’re replacing.

Frequently Asked Questions About NFL Injuries

What are the worst injuries in NFL history?

Aside from cumulative injuries like CTE and medical emergencies like heart attacks, several National League Football players have been paralyzed; one of the most notable injuries was suffered by Detroit Lions RG Mike Utley in 1991, damaging his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Have there ever been any NFL career-ending injuries?

Several. In addition to Utley’s severe injury, there was Washington QB Joe Theismann’s broken leg in 1985, Oakland Raiders WR Darryl Stingley’s spinal injury in 1978, and Chicago Bears WR Wendell Davis’s two torn kneecaps in 1993. There have additionally been numerous season-ending surgeries and injuries suffered by players.

Who pays for an NFL player’s injuries?

The team officials are responsible for paying all the medical bills, and the injured player will still get paid if his contract is guaranteed – but the National Football League is notorious for handing out partially non-guaranteed contracts.

When does the NFL injury report get published?

The National Football League’s official site reports from practice are issued early in the week, usually Wednesdays and Thursdays, then the final report on Friday.

There’s so much more to discuss when it comes to football injuries, but now that you’ve got the basics down pat, you can take your NFL betting experience for the next featured game or regular season Sunday Night Football game to the next level at OddsTrader. Stay healthy, and we’ll see you at the pay window.

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