NFC West: Darius Haywood-Bey

Posted by's Mike Sando

Steve from Ukiah, Calif., writes: Mike, love the blog. Best source of info on the NFC West that's out there. The loss of Joe Staley seriously hurts the 49ers' [chances] for even modest success. In fact, losing any starting lineman for a team could have that impact and it seems as if the guys in the trenches are always getting hurt. If you watch most college games, the entire o offensive line is on the field with braces on each knee. Seems to me like this is a preventative measure to avoid injuries and seems like a great idea. If the league and the teams are concerned with player safety, why not require lineman to wear braces and try and prevent some of these serious knee injuries?

Mike Sando: Thanks for the support, Steve. I think there's conflicting information about how much knee braces help as a preventative measure, particularly for players who have not suffered knee injuries previously. I asked Jason Smith of the Rams about the subject when I spoke with him at Rams training camp. He was wearing braces on both knees. He said it was something he did in college and wanted to continue in the pros, just to be safe. He then missed time with a sprained knee this season. Did the brace prevent more serious injury? Tough to say.

I've found a couple of studies online -- one here and an earlier one here -- discussing this matter. The former link included this statement regarding knee braces worn at the amateur level: "There has been controversy regarding whether knee braces prevent injury. Some researchers have found that knee braces can prevent injury, while others have not or have found increased injuries with knee braces. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that although prophylactic knee braces have not been shown to be effective in preventing injury, rehabilitative knee braces for individuals who have already had knee injuries have been proven effective. The AAOS further recommended that muscle strengthening and conditioning programs and well-groomed grass athletic fields are better prevention measures for knee injuries than prophylactic braces."

This might be a subject to investigate further. Staley had never missed a snap until this season. I'll ask around.

Jeff from Ellensburg, Wash., writes: Sando, what is your take on the Seahawks in the long term? During the Mike Holmgren era, the Seahawks were an above average team. They consistently made the playoffs but were never able to attain elite status. As that era has come to an end, we are left with many aging players who are injury prone. I just don't see how a few drafts could remedy what ails the Seahawks. Despite the doom and gloom tone here, I know the Hawks do have potential in their young starters. I just wonder if it is going to be a long road back to top of the NFC West. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks can compete for the NFC West title quickly if they can fix their offensive line and find ways to replace what Patrick Kerney provided a couple of years ago. Matt Hasselbeck seems to have conquered the back issues that bothered him last season. Those can come and go, so there's always a risk for recurrence, but that part of him has held up better than I would have anticipated. He could conceivably have a couple of more good seasons left -- if only Seattle could protect him. Fixing the offensive line would also help the running game and take pressure off the defense.

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