On small school guys and NFL-ready bodies

Sifting through my morning reading, I was struck by this piece of Andrew Hofheimer’s blog entry:

"You find football players where you find football players, but small school guys’ bodies are not as NFL ready. Reviewing the last two drafts, here are players we picked from small schools: Terrance Knighton (Temple), Derek Cox (William & Mary), [Jarett] Dillard (Rice), Zach Miller (Nebraska-Omaha), and Rashad Jennings (Liberty) from 2009; D’Anthony Smith (Louisiana Tech), Larry Hart (Central Arkansas), Austen Lane (Murray State), Deji Karim (Southern Illinois), and Scotty McGee (James Madison) from 2010. That’s 10 guys drafted from small schools."

"Knighton has had weight issues. Cox has a foot injury that has hindered his performance. [Jarett] Dillard broke a leg last year, placing him on IR, and has developed a stress fracture in his other foot this year, placing him on IR. Zach Miller has had foot problems that have kept him out of much of offseason practice. Rashad Jennings has stayed healthy, but remember he was at Pitt before he transferred to Liberty to be with his family. D’Anthony Smith is on IR with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Larry Hart has remained healthy, but was a power lifter in college and presumably has more weight training than the other draftees. Austen Lane has had leg issues and is yet to play in the regular season. Deji Karim hurt his hand and is yet to play in the regular season. Scotty McGee hurt his foot and is on IR."

Interesting, I thought. But I also suspect Hofheimer isn’t a doctor or a medical researcher.

So I took the proposition to ESPN’s resident medical expert Stephania Bell, who read it and offered this reasoned response.

"My immediate gut response is no, zero credence.

"Then I have to back up and say, in order to make an argument, you'd have to do a proper retrospective analysis that would hold up to scientific (statistical) scrutiny. If you could show me through that method, that there is a higher proportion of small school guys who get injured, OK. But then I still don't know that I buy the rationale (bodies not NFL ready). Just because there's as statistical relationship doesn't equate to cause and effect.

"That's my academic argument -- and while not feasible to conduct such a study in the immediate sense, I think if people want to throw these sorts of ideas out there, while I think they're absolutely interesting to consider (and perhaps worth looking into), there needs to be some sort of scientific basis for really making a coherent argument."

"That's my two cents. On top of that, for every injury and guy named here, I can match it with a similar (or worse) injury to a guy from a big-time school.

"One only has to look at the oft-injured in their short careers Percy Harvin (Florida), Reggie Bush (USC), Beanie Wells (Ohio State), etc, etc....

"One more thing: perhaps the percentage of small school guys in the NFL is so much less that there's bound to be more injuries per capita, if you will."