The Effects of Injuries in Professional Sports

No one likes to see a professional athlete get hurt, but it happens. The resulting injuries always have an effect on an athlete’s respective team. For the sports year 2015 for example, teams in Major League Baseball spent over $700 million on player salaries to injured players. The NFL spent over $350 million and the NBA was in the neighborhood of $300 million. While injuries cost money, what is the true cost of losing an athlete to injury?

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The Obvious

On November 11, the Washington Redskins somehow gave up 501 yards of total offense to Tampa Bay but still managed to beat the Bucs 16-3. The win gave the Redskins a 6-3 record and ownership of first place in the NFC East. The following week, disaster struck.

Midway through the third quarter of Washington’s next game, QB Alex Smith was sacked by Kareem Jackson. Smith’s right leg was bent awkwardly and he ended up with a broken right tibia and fibula, the two bones that make up the lower leg. It was a horrific injury that eerily occurred 33 years to the day after former Washington QB Joe Theismann suffered the same injury.

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The Redskins would go on to lose that day 23-21 to Houston and have not won a game since. Their hold on the NFC East has evaporated and Washington sits at 6-7 hanging onto playoff aspirations by a thread. That thread is in the hands of Mr. Butt Fumble himself, Mark Sanchez who has taken over at quarterback for the Redskins. Backup Colt McCoy also suffered a broken leg in just his second NFL start, a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

The obvious is, of course, teams that suffer injuries – especially NFL teams whose quality quarterback goes down – are going to have trouble winning. From a betting standpoint, it seems one should be wary of betting on a team that lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending injury. Unless the backup’s name is Nick Foles, which is a story for another day.

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The Letdown

The Los Angeles Angels have one of the best rosters in baseball. They have arguably the game’s best player in Mike Trout and possibly the game’s next great in import Shohei Ohtani, who both pitched and was a position player in 2018.

The Angels won the AL West in 2014, a year in which Trout – Ohtani wasn’t around yet – played in 157 games, hit 36 homers, and had a career-high 111 RBIs. Trout won the American League MVP award and it appeared the Angels were destined to become the franchise of the future.

In 2017, Trout suffered a thumb injury that forced him to miss almost eight weeks of the season. He played in just 114 games and, without their star, the Angels finished 80-82 and out of the postseason. It happened again in 2018, the first for Ohtani. Los Angeles ended the season 80-82 again without a playoff berth after a season that saw both Trout and Ohtani wind up on the disabled list.

Ohtani was brilliant finishing his first season with 22 home runs and a batting average of .285. As a pitcher, he started 10 games and went 4-2. Unfortunately, he developed elbow problems and he was to undergo offseason Tommy John surgery. With their star Trout and the new phenom Ohtani out of the lineup, the Angels simply deflated. With Trout out in August, the Angels lost six straight.

Teams that lose star players have difficulty winning. The injury has an effect on team psyche. Doubt creeps in and teams wonder if they can win without their best player. More often than not, they don’t.

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Houston Did Have a Problem

A similar situation occurred with the Houston Texans a year ago. Just five games into the season, the Texans lost three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to a season-ending leg injury. Without Watt and starting quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans won just one game after their bye week. They finished 4-12.

With a healthy Watt and Watson back in the lineup, the Texans are 9-3 and lead the AFC South. They were the favorite heading into a Week 14 matchup with Indianapolis. The fact that two of Houston’s best players are healthy presents a much different betting strategy than the same week just a year ago.

Bottom Line

The bottom line for bettors is to have a keen awareness for injury reports. Pay attention to which players may be out of the lineup. A left guard who is going to miss a few games is much different than losing your starting quarterback for the season.

It may also help to understand the extent of an injury. One as severe as Smith’s for the Redskins can have a lasting effect on players, especially those who were on the field when it happened. The fact that a similar injury then affected Washington’s backup is another factor. Players may be thinking “Am I next?” That kind of thinking can affect their overall ability to execute at a high level. It would behoove bettors to consider such factors.

Article by Rick Bouch

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