Mastering NFL Injury Reports for Fantasy Football Owners

I have to admit, I’m very impressed with the popularity of fantasy football and how many football fans are involved in fantasy leagues around the world.  As the Head Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist for the Jacksonville Jaguars, I can see why fantasy football is so appealing resulting in an elevated interest in NFL stats each week.

It makes each and every game exciting because fans are now interested in the  “players’ numbers” and not just the final score.

Rule #1

I’ll tell you right up front, I have never been involved in any fantasy football leagues.  When it comes to medical information about NFL players, my Rule #1 is to never discuss any details about an NFL player’s injury that hasn’t already been reported in the newspaper.

It’s a simple rule I learned from one of my mentors, Ronnie Barnes, Head Athletic Trainer of the New York Giants.  I don’t discuss details about medical injuries involving my players with my wife, my best friends or my family.  It’s easy to understand why and, as a full-time employee of the NFL for the past 24 seasons, it protects the private medical issues of my players.

Reading Between the Lines of an NFL Injury Report

With that being said, sharing how the medical reports are created within an NFL team would be helpful for fantasy football owners as they prepare their game plans for weekend roster moves.  Each NFL team has their own philosophy on how they practice injured players, how they manage an injury during the week and when they test injured players during the weekend.  A few years ago the NFL standardized how each team reports injuries to the league office to help avoid surprises when it comes to disclosing medical issues involving players.

Knowing how to read between the lines of these reports can make your job as a fantasy football owners’ job so much easier and make you look like a genius.  While the new guy in the league is drafting a kicker, you’ll be benching the player who is simply a medical decoy being used to confuse the opposing team’s game planning.

Trust me, it’s a chess match on this side of the fence.  I’ll share with you tips on how to “crack the code” to use NFL injury reports and player statuses as a huge advantage for your fantasy football team.

Common Questions

What’s really the difference between questionable, doubtful & probable?”

If someone is limited in practice, is that player just playing the role of a backup for the starters during practice?”

If player X has a concussion, will he typically be cleared to play in the game the following weekend?”

These are some of the questions that many of you ask yourselves as you prepare for the weekend games.  Here’s the inside scoop on the manner in which the injuries are managed by the clubs.

Inside the Percentages

Probable – 75% chance of playing in the game.

Questionable – 50% chance of playing in the game.

Doubtful – 25% chance of playing in the game.

The Golden Reps

The number of reps that the starting offense and defense has on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are very limited.  These reps are treated like gold by the offensive coordinator (OC) and defensive coordinator (DC).  Therefore, players that take “snaps with the number ones” are expected to play on Sunday.

If a team doesn’t think the star veteran corner back will be ready for the game, they surely want their young corner to “get the reps” with the starters to be ready for the game.  Those quality reps with the other 10 starting players on that side of the ball are very valuable and are usually given to the player expected to play on Sunday.

So if you read that an injured player is only taking “some of the reps” and is “rehabbing on the side”, especially late in the week, it’s more than likely you’ll see him on the field Sunday…..in street clothes.

The Stats Killers: Hammys & Groins

As you’ve read in my recent sports medicine blog postings on hamstring and groin injuries, these are difficult injuries to return from quickly for skilled positions such as RB, WR and DB’s.  Until the reports say he is running at least 85% by Wednesday and “full speed” on Friday, don’t expect that player to impress you on Sunday.  When a skilled player with a lower extremity soft tissue injury is being interviewed and he gives you the “day-to-day” quote, Sunday might not be his breakout performance.

With both of these injuries, the player’s top end speed is always in question.  The opposing players know it too and they use it to their advantage.  That’s why a player coming back from a strained hamstring or a strained groin may be playing in the game but their stats will be watered down for the first week or so.

The X Factor

You know that you want it.  They want to find it just as badly as you do.  It’s the “X Factor” that gives you the huge numbers come Sunday night.  It’s the tips which help you put the perfect fantasy football team on the field each Sunday.  That’s how you make the key roster move which results in having the WR who has a career day or how you trade for the young QB mid-week who turns out to be a hometown hero with a monster game.

Understanding NFL medical reports and using sports medicine tips will help you think like an NFL GM and give you the X Factor advantage in your fantasy football league.

Author: Mike Ryan

After 26 seasons as a full-time certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist in the National Football League, Mike Ryan has outstanding first-hand experience. His unique professional and athletic background has sharpened his skills in the arts of sports injury management, elite rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention. Mike is now taking his experience to mainstream America. His mission is simple: Sports Medicine advice that is easy to use and brings fast results. Learn more about Mike Ryan

4 thoughts on “Mastering NFL Injury Reports for Fantasy Football Owners”

  1. Mike –

    As a third-year Fantasy Football player, this was incredibly insightful information. I’ve always wondered about the difference between “Probable”, “Questionable” and “Doubtful.” Not only did you explain this, but you kicked it up with the inside scoop on how to assess players during the week.

    Thanks! I’m ready to win for the third year in a row! LOL

  2. Hey Mike,
    Great report from someone who is in the trenches with these guys! I wonder if you have found an increased prevalence in hamstring and groin pulls on the “forward speed guys on offense” compared to the more “backward and multi-directional guys on defense”?

    You are truly fortunate to be working with such amazing athletes!! Paul Addison, PT, MPT, OCS, CSCS

    1. Hi Paul,
      I do find more hamstring injuries with the straight-line positions and more groin injuries with the back-n-side athletes like DB’s. That’s a great question on your part…..that’s why you have so many letters after your name! I appreciate your question and for sharing, Paul.

  3. Mike,
    This is great advice. As a Fantasy Football player that hates to lose, I am always trying to get an edge on the injuries. Now I will change my thinking about my players with hamstring or groin injuries. Thanks to your advice, it may be worth it to visit the nfl teams website to see if my players are getting the reps in practice with the first team.

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