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New York Giants injuries: Problem is obvious, solution is not

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The Giants have already had at least one injury, perhaps more, that could affect the 2015 season. So, it's time to talk about a sore subject once again.

The Giants and injuries too often go together. Here, Nat Berhe is helped off the field during a 2014 game.
The Giants and injuries too often go together. Here, Nat Berhe is helped off the field during a 2014 game.
Al Bello/Getty Images

Everyone agrees that the New York Giants have suffered a ridiculous number of injuries over the past two seasons. The numbers, illustrated below, are stark and undeniable. The Giants have lost more games to injury than any other team in the league in each of the past two seasons, and it's not close. Or funny.

What no one agrees on is the cause. Or who to blame. Or if anything in particular is leading to Giants falling like trees in the midst of a deforestation project. Or, most importantly, how to stop these injuries from happening.

Everybody, of course, has a theory. It's Tom Coughlin's fault because he pushes players too hard, or maybe he's just an old curmudgeon who doesn't understand modern practice methods. It's strength and conditioning coach Jerry Palmieri's fault because, well, because he's the strength and conditioning coach and it has to be SOMEBODY'S fault. It's Jerry Reese's fault because he keeps drafting or signing guys who can't stay healthy. And besides, he hates linebackers. It's Lady Luck's fault because, well, because the Giants were lucky to win the Super Bowl twice under Coughlin and now they have to pay for their sins. It's Roger Goodell's fault because, well, because Goodell can't seem to get anything right. It's Sepp Blatter's fault because, well, because the Giants didn't pay him enough money and he is making them suffer for that.

Problem with all these theories is that's exactly what they are -- theories. No one has an ANSWER. Because, the reality is there isn't a single answer to the issue of injuries and why the Giants have suffered more than any other NFL team the past two seasons.

Dr. David Chao is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert who was team doctor for the San Diego Chargers from 1997-2013. He writes the 'Monday Morning MD' column for the National Football Post.

"There seems to be so much attention now on injuries. Everything is so now and immediate. Will Beatty's pec tear seems to be old news right now. The news cycles are so fast," Dr. Chao said. "Every injury hits the paper. Sam Bradford limps and it's news. There's much more awareness of injuries, and I also think there's much more awareness season-round related to football. Football's no longer seasonal."

In addition to the Beatty injury, there have already been season-ending injuries to Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler, Denver Broncos offense tackle Ryan Clady and several others. Dr. Chao said the "vast majority" of teams will have players fall victim to a season-ending injury during the offseason.

That doesn't explain why the Giants, in the words of Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, are "looking to put together an injury dynasty." The Giants have the two highest Adjusted Games Lost totals Football Outsiders has ever recorded, 141.3 in 2013 and 137.1 in 2014. The Giants led the league in 2014 with 22 players who were at one time or another on the 53-man roster ending up on IR.

"I am very frustrated about the number of injuries that we have had," co-owner John Mara said at the end of the 2014 season. "It has been two years in a row now that we have led the league in putting players on [injured reserve] and number of games lost by starters.

"We spent so much time last off-season addressing that and talking about how we are going to fix that going forward. We made adjustments to what was being done in the weight room. We had the GPS tracking system. For some reason, here we are again leading the league in that category.

"We cut down the number of soft-tissue injuries and then, all of a sudden, we get all these broken bones and torn tendons and torn biceps. I just don't have an answer for that right now. Obviously we will spend a lot of time on it this off-season, talking about that and looking at ways that we can improve upon that."

In case much of this sounds familiar, we have discussed this topic before. Multiple times. Here are links to those stories, which also include quotes from Dr. Chao and from upstate New York orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kyle Flik, team doctor for a number of minor-league sports franchises.

The answer remains what it has been each time we have discussed this topic. There really is no answer. Giants quarterback Eli Manning always says that every interception has its own story. So, too, does every injury. Each knee injury is different. Knee injuries, concussions, torn biceps, torn pectoral muscles, broken bones. All are different. All have different causes, different explanations. Perhaps at times the Giants share in that blame. More often than not, they probably do not.

Some injuries happen because football is a violent, contact sport despite Goodell's best efforts to soften the game. Many injuries are non-contact. Just because drills are non-contact doesn't mean they don't stress the joints, muscles and bones. High-speed, high-intensity, high-volume practices are the norm around the league now as coaches try to maximize every second of the limited number of practices they are allowed to conduct. Sometimes guys will get hurt even if they are properly conditioned or stretched out.

Can the Giants be blamed for the Beatty injury? Maybe. Maybe not. Coughlin has admitted to wanting players to get stronger. As I have written previously, though, aren't coaches supposed to push players to get better? Coughlin said Beatty was trying to increase the weight he was lifting. We don't know by how much, or what type of lift Beatty was doing, how far into a workout he was or what type of lifting he had done on his own prior to OTAs.

"It's perfectly possible to get this pectoral injury with proper training techniques," Dr. Chao said.

Can we blame the Giants for Odell Beckham suffering from what is being called hamstring "soreness" for the second year in a row? Perhaps, but there is no way to be sure. Beckham was away from the team for months during a whirlwind offseason. We don't know what his training regimen was. We don't know how much of that was team prescribed. We don't know what Beckham's stretching and strengthening program has been since OTAs began. We don't know how the soreness developed.

"You can't say Odell Beckham coming in with a hamstring (as a rookie) is anything that the Giants did. Now, if you want to say for whatever reason the Giants haven't rehabbed and re-trained and done enough preventative maintenance on Odell Beckham where he now has another one, that's a theory," Dr. Chao said.

"No question certain athletes, and quite honestly they're quick-twitch athletes, are more prone to hamstrings. He certainly is one of those guys. There may not be anything you can do about it to eliminate that risk."

Oft-injured middle linebacker Jon Beason said Wednesday on Sirius XM NFL Radio that over his objections the Giants are limiting his reps to try and keep him healthy. Are we going to blame the Giants if Beason, again, misses time with injuries?

A lot of words have been used here to say, essentially, what has been said before. There is no magic bullet. No single explanation or change in training that will fix everything. No single firing or hiring that will make injuries go away. Firing Palmieri, for example, would make fans feel better, it would make them feel like "something" they could see was being done. There is, however, zero evidence that would make anything better. The Giants are using science. They have made changes to their approach in some areas. There just is no guaranteed solution. No proven fix. All Giants fans can do is hope it is their team's turn to have a relatively healthy season.