Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on a low hit by Browns defensive back TJ Ward in December, believes that deciding between a concussion and an ACL tear is a no brainer.
Many questioned whether knee injuries have increased as a result of a preoccupation with concussions in the wake of Gronkowski’s injury. TJ Ward, who stopped Gronkowski on a low hit, maintained after the game that NFL fines on high hits make injuries like the one suffered by the Patriots tight end inevitable. “We have to play the game the way they want it played,” Ward explained. “I [have] been fined three times. I don’t like to play for free. Repeat offenders they’re starting to suspend. It’s not a decision where I’ll go low on every play, but actually it’s turned into that. If you hit him in the chest and he lowers his head, I got a chance to be fined. When they set the rule, everyone knew what was going to happen. It’s pretty much inevitable.”
NFL safety measures have reduced concussions from 266 in 2011 to 171 in 2012 to 152 in 2013. Some believe that protecting players’ heads has come at the price of endangering their knees. While the league maintained that ACL injuries had declined last season in the face of criticism from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, non-NFL counts actually showed a dramatic increase in season-ending ACL injuries.
Gronk isn’t certain he’ll be ready for the Patriots opener at Miami. He’s a good bet to appear on Bill Belichick’s injury report long after his knee heals.