By: Tanner Funk
Injuries suck. In all areas of life. I am not splitting the atom with this observation. Nobody wants to be in pain. Nobody wants therapy or treatment or medications. Nobody wants our lives to be delayed by a physical complication. This is no truer than in the sports world. Especially if you are a Chiefs fan after week 1. Even when you destroy your opponent 44-21 and the best player on the planet puts on a show to remind everyone how special he is, that darn injury bug just had to pop up.
I have always had a fascination with sports injuries in general for some reason. How can Will Shields and Tony Gonzalez can play 15-plus seasons and never miss a game and the Watt brothers can’t walk more than 10 feet without tearing something? Why are some top-tier physical specimens not injury-prone and others cannot stay on the field? While I will never be able to prove this, I am convinced there is somehow, someway a psychological reasoning behind this. The power our minds had on our bodies is something we have yet to fully understand or comprehend. Can “mental toughness” or a more “rigid thought process” have an actual impact on how your body handles the stressors of a sports season? Possibly, but we will never know. Off the record, controversially, I think there is a connection.
Injuries always bother me especially because there is nothing you can do about it. Sure, you can be in elite shape and take care of yourself and play with amazing fundamentals, but sometimes the turf gives out, a three-hundred-pound man gets thrown into the side of our leg, or you get hit by a meteor. Catastrophes unfortunately can and will happen. This is the ultimate x-factor in any sports season and sometimes you are either lucky or very unlucky in this department. This x-factor can also completely de-rail a potential Super Bowl run.
As I write this column, I am reminded of the extreme nausea of the night of October 17, 2019. Our Chiefs were playing the Denver Broncos and the best player on the planet found a way to dislocate his kneecap and the entire city almost threw up and cried at the same time. I was one of them. It all turned out well for us that year, but it also showed how one freakish moment can turn everything upside down in a heartbeat.
Many theorize that football players are now simply too strong, too fast, and too large for ligaments, bones, and tendons to withstand these new body metrics and parameters. I am also aware that many believe the reason why we are seeing so many more football-related injuries are that players simply are not prepared. This is not your daddy’s NFL anymore. The days of full padded two-a-day practices in 100-degree heat for 4 straight weeks are over. These types of camps that Dick Vermeil and Marty Schottenheimer use to run were brutal. But players also said they were a “necessary evil” and would prepare them both mentally and physically for a long season.
We all know those days are over related to the new CBA agreements. We all want the same thing as football fans. We want all our players to stay healthy and compete at the highest of levels. We don’t want to see any team be derailed because of injuries. The networks also don’t want that to happen as well. The networks and the NFL want ratings and revenue and that’s not going to happen when star players like Mahomes or Brady or Rodgers are not playing.
I know many older NFL players and even some fans hate how current NFL quarterbacks are being “protected.” That’s why I think the day of quarterbacks playing into their 40s is not as farfetched as some believe. I believe that Brady is a trendsetter with this, and many more quarterbacks will be doing this if they physically can. As Chiefs fans, we should be thrilled by this.
Patrick Mahomes is 26 years old. If he played until he was 42 as an example, then he would be playing for another 18 years! That’s fun to think about and it’s impossible to comprehend what he might accomplish especially if Reid coaches for another 10 or so years.
I think we also as fans want a safe sport. The stories of what has happened to many former players before we began implementing concussion protocols are tragic. CTE and other debilitating injuries are a real thing and I know many parents are now very reluctant to have their sons play football related to these new revelations. However, injuries are just a part of sports. They always will be. Many athletes will often say an injury is what lead them to finally stop playing. They can be heartbreaking and lives can be changed in a flash.
From a different perspective, I also think injuries, like sports in general, can teach us the most about life. Life is not always fair. Life is full of adversities and challenges. Life can sometimes knock us on our butts, and we never saw it coming. Life can test us like we never thought possible. Ultimately, how are we going to handle it? How are we going to respond? Are we going to answer the bell? The greatest stories in life are the ones about how people have handled unbelievable moments and adversity. How sports and injuries can test us is just one more way we can tell these stories.