NFL football lineman knee injuries are among the most common in football. We see them on TV with knee braces, many times as a preventative measure, but often healing their injury from last week’s game. We’ve treated our share of these players for cartilage injuries, which is why a new study concluding that the pressure on their knees is less than jogging is a bit of a surprise! Turns out, injuries in this case are all about the angles…
Based on a study by Jim Bradley (the Pittsburgh Steelers physician), Linemen injure their knees allot, with defensive lineman getting more knee injuries than their offensive counterparts. In fact, defensive linemen have the most knee injuries of any position on the field. The research on whether prophylactic knee bracing helps reduce injuries is all over the place with two studies showing it increases injuries and one study showing a reduction in injury.
The new study tried to compare whether linemen had more force on their knees when blocking or quarter back sacking than jogging. The researchers collected data using motion capture technology. 15 NCAA lineman walked, jogged, and then performed their positions while knee force was measured. Much to everyone’s surprise, the forces on the knee while jogging were more than playing on the offensive or defensive line with a huge, angry man pushing you back! However, the researchers believe that the higher knee bending angles plus the force are what causes the higher likelihood of knee injury in linemen. The most vulnerable area is the back of the femur bone (femoral condyle).
The upshot? I would have guessed that the forces on linemen’s knees would be through the roof! After all, seeing these guys play with braces on and either plowing through 300+ pound men or deflecting them like ants is awe inspiring. However, turns out it’s not the forces, but the crazy knee angles these guys use for their job that’s the big problem!