East Jefferson General Hospital

Damage Control Week 7: New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Written by Mackie Shilstone   

Noted fitness expert Mackie Shilstone is writing about injuries in the NFL this season and will take a look at the injury report for the New Orleans Saints and their opponent each week.

Several years ago I found myself sitting across from boxing champion Bernard Hopkins on a flight from New Orleans to New York. We had just broken training camp in New Orleans and our team was heading to Atlantic City for an historic fight against then-light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver. Hopkins was moving up two weight divisions to try and unseat Tarver from his 175-pound title.

I was Hopkins' performance nutrition and conditioning coach. Some of what I have used in preparing all of my 3,000-plus pro athletes for their respective areas of athletic competition has been taken from studying the teachings of the battle strategist Sun Tzu, as told in his 500 B.C. manuscript "The Art of War."

Much to my surprise, when I leaned across the aisle to ask Hopkins what he was listening to on his iPod he said it was "The Art of War." By the way, we won that battle.

Here is what Sun Tzu is interpreted to have said about execution (speed) in battle, from "Sun Tzu For Success" by Gerald Michaelson. "Speed is the essence of war (or business). Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions."

I give you this bit of history because speed is such a dominant factor in the NFL in deciding victory and injuries.

One of the first things I witnessed Peyton Manning do in a recent game was to run a no-huddle offense, which helped lead his team to a victory because the opponent was unprepared for the speed and accuracy of the Denver Broncos' offense. Sun Tzu would be proud.

A May 2009 article from medicalnewstoday.com, "Players' Positions, Not Prior Injuries, Predict NFL Career Length," referenced a study presented at the 56th annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, which stated "punters, kickers and long snappers are more likely to have the longest careers in the NFL."

The 2009 ACSM research study went on to state that for the 2008 NFL season, 1,889 players were listed on 32 team rosters, and "the average longevity was 4.6 years, with only 7 percent of the players having experience in the league beyond 10 years. Four of the five players with the greatest longevity were punters or kickers (the other, a rare quarterback)."

Speed always will dominate the NFL game at most positions. However, the ability to decelerate (slow down) may separate those that continue to play the game relatively injury-free versus those that become injured even without contact.

"For injury prevention, proper technique for deceleration may be as important, as the techniques used to increase speed," according to William Sherman, an East Jefferson General Hospital orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip and knee surgery.

The difference between an NFL receiver and a college receiver is that the NFL receiver does not slow down making his turns. This statement implies that the NFL receiver knows how to change speeds effectively with a bit of deception thrown into the mix.

Please remember the fact that once that receiver, such as Saints wide out Lance Moore, sustains a hamstring injury, this player may feel the effects for the remainder of the season, and possibly his entire NFL career, if he returns to action too quickly. Yet, staying out of action for any length of time means someone else will take his place in the lineup - perhaps permanently - the fear of many injured players.

On Thurday, Moore was listed as "full participation in practice," while cornerback Jabari Greer was listed as "limited in practice" related to his groin injury and linebacker David Hawthorne "did not practice" due to a continuation of his hamstring injury which first showed up on the injury report in week 4.

One item of note was that linebacker Jonathan Vilma practiced with the Saints after months of rehabilitation on his surgically repaired left knee. He could be available Sunday.

Week 7 brings a case in point regarding the impact of a speed-related injury. The player in question is Bucs cornerback Anthony Gaitor, who injured his hamstring prior to week 1. During that week he was listed as "limited in practice," with game status as " doubtful."

Week 2 had Gaitor listed again as "limited in practice," and game status was again "doubtful."

Here is where the Bucs' medical staff must have made a decision to shut him down, listing Gaitor's status for week 3 as "did not practice" and "out" for the game against the Cowboys. Week 4 the Bucs played the Redskins and once again Gaitor was listed as "out."

Week 5 brought a bye week, time for additional rest and recovery for Gaitor but decision time for the Bucs. And that is just what they did by exercising a new rule, which allows a team to list a player as " injured reserve - designated for return." Said rule allows Gaitor to rest for up to eight weeks on the sideline but he may return after six weeks if he achieves playing status.

However, this rule implies that the injury (the hamstring in this case) is " major," and Gaitor is incapable of playing for six weeks from the date of the injury. Now, here is the kicker. This rule can only be used once per team per season.

The only person listed on the Bucs' Thursday injury report was guard Carl Nicks, who was "limited in practice" with a toe injury, which first surfaced in week 2.

Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer had this to say about coming back from a bye week: "I do not think we'll have a problem getting focused. We know what is ahead of us."

I would like to add, to stay abreast of what is behind and around you. Remember, someone is always watching your every move in the press box.