"Injuries can totally ruin an NFL team's season, but Jags are top of the list of healthiest teams. Their head physician gives an inside look why.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Fighting off injuries. Coming back from injuries.
Out of all 32 NFL teams, the Jaguars came out on top in terms of the least injuries in the 2022 season. Now, they're on the hunt for a Super Bowl win.
The Jaguars' lead doctor says some of the credit for the team's good bill of health goes to Head Coach Doug Pederson.
"I think it's a huge part of being a successful team," says Dr. Kaplan, the lead team physician for the Jaguars. "I've seen, I think, seven coaches and interim coaches come through, and I think he's the best at taking care of his players and keeping them healthy."
He also credits Jeff Ferguson, Vice President of Player Health and Performance, for laying out a medical plan for the players.
"Out of all NFL, all 32 teams, we have the least amount of games missed based on injury in all of our players," Kaplan says.
Man-Games Lost (MGL) ranked NFL teams by the least amount of games missed by injured players and also due to health protocols and gave them a score.
The ranking placed Jacksonville at '78,' the best, and in second, the Jaguar's next foe, Kansas City at '116.'
At the worst end, MGL says, were the Titans and the Broncos.
Kaplan says "protocols" could mean time out of play for concussions.
So what does Pederson do that Kaplan finds so helpful?
He says the coach doesn't just run an operation based on X's and O's. He talks with his players and gets them thinking how to take care of their own bodies. He paces the intensity of practice from July through the end of the season. And Kaplan says, he encourages the players to seek treatments.
A popular one now is called BFR, blood flow restriction. Kaplan says, "If you walk into the athletic training room in the stadium, you'll see BFR's at the tables."
Basically, the goal is to get a player through a healing process more quickly. In fact, Kaplan says, BFR can shave weeks off the time a player is out.
Without BFR, a player may have to stay off his leg, for instance, to heal a sprained ankle. Meanwhile, his leg muscles get weaker. But he can't handle a full workout on that leg because the ankle needs to heal.
BFR modifies how that exercise is accomplished.
"We can put this blood pressure cuff on a thigh and simply have the player extend and flex his knee, and the blood flow is restricted to the muscles. So they have to work hard, and it keeps them active and keeps them growing and fights off atrophy (or the shrinking of muscles)," Kaplan explain.
Kaplan also offers this explanation.
"I wanted to try it," he says. "And so they put it on my arm. I had a two-pound weight on my arm, which is very light. I was just doing 10 to 15 curls, and all of a sudden it was like holding 40 pounds."
The blood pressure cuff in BFR isn't like you get wrapped around your arm at your doctor's office.
It's a surgical grade tourniquet and Kaplan says. "So there's a science behind how much pressure, how long to do it, and often you can do it."
BFR is just one example of the type of complex training that goes on in the Jaguars organization, Kaplan says. He wants to salute the entire team of professionals, who work every week to keep the team healthy."