Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Aug 2009

Dvoracek: The Most-Injured Player Of The Decade?

The news that Dusty Dvoracek might have a torn ACL is extremely disheartening, even for a neutral observer. Dvoracek's already torn his ACL once, suffered a season-long foot injury, and tore his biceps tendon last year, resulting in him missing 35 of the 48 regular season games he's been eligible to play in since arriving in Chicago as a third-round pick in 2006.

While we won't know whether Dvoracek's ACL is actually torn for another day or two, the news got me wondering: Has Dvoracek been the most-injured player of recent memory? I loaded up our injury database to find out.

First, without considering the possibility of Dvoracek missing the 2009 season, I wanted to see whether he'd missed more time than the other members of his class. Using either AGL (our metric which adjusts appearances at a certain injury status on the injury report for historical rates of participation, after adjusting for a player's role on the team) or purely the raw number of games the player missed, it's pretty clear that Dvoracek's been the member of his draft class most afflicted by injury.

Table 1: Most AGL Accrued, 2006 Draft
ID Name Position AGL Games Missed
DvoracekDus06 Dusty Dvoracek DL 204.3 34
SpencerCha06 Charles Spencer OL 181.2 30
CalhounBri06 Brian Calhoun RB 168.0 28
HodgeAbd06 Abdul Hodge LB 153.4 27
RuckerFro06 Frostee Rucker DL 133.6 22
HillTye06 Tye Hill DB 115.5 20
O'CallaghanRya06 Ryan O'Callaghan OL 115.2 21
ObomanuBen06 Ben Obomanu WR 113.3 19
WilliamsDem06 Demetrius Williams WR 113.1 16
BlackmonWil06 Will Blackmon DB 108.0 19
SypniewskiQui06 Quinn Sypniewski TE 106.9 17

What if Dvoracek misses the entire 2009 season, though? Will he be the most injured player of the decade?

To find out, I compared Dvoracek's figures, were he to miss 16 more games and accrue the 96 more AGL that would result, to those of every player who made their debut between 2001 and 2005, the players and years for which we have four years of optimized injury data. I looked at the injuries suffered by each of those players over their first four seasons as a pro, comparing their games missed over that timeframe to Dvoracek's.

It turns out that Dvoracek wouldn't even need to miss the entire season to rank as this decade's most-injured player.

Table 2: Most Games Missed, 05-08
ID Name Position AGL Games Missed
DvoracekDus06 Dusty Dvoracek DL 300.3?? 50??
CodyDan05 Dan Cody LB 273.0 45
PerryChr04 Chris Perry RB 215.9 40
WilliamsSam03 Sam Williams DL 227.8 38
KingKen03 Kenny King DL 217.2 36
CordovaJor04 Jorge Cordova LB 208.0 35
BuckhalterCor01 Correll Buckhalter RB 202.3 32
JeffersonJos02 Joseph Jefferson DB 174.1 32
SmithRao02 Raonall Smith LB 166.4 32
PollackDav05 David Pollack LB 190.2 31
CalmusRoc02 Rocky Calmus LB 153.1 30

The only player who would come close to Dvoracek, if the defensive tackle ends up missing the year, is Dan Cody. The former Ravens second-round pick only played in three NFL games after being selected in the 2005 draft, thanks to complications and recurrences of a torn ACL suffered during his first camp. He made it back onto the field for the Ravens' 2008 camp, but was cut and has presumably retired.

As you can see, it's not a forgiving list to be on. Chris Perry was the butt of many of our jokes last year, but he very likely failed to get the NFL reps he needed to become a successful back because of injury. Teammate David Pollack suffered a neck injury and was forced to retire. The players on the list who have been lucky enough to continue their careers have failed to develop into more than reserves. We've often said that health is a skill, but it's always sad to see otherwise-able players prevented from reaching their potential by the limits of their bodies or freak injuries. I hope that Dvoracek, by all accounts an extremely hard worker, will find that his ACL is intact.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 27 Aug 2009

24 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2009, 12:15pm by forcefulmuffin

Comments

1
by Temo :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 3:19pm

The first couple years in the league, I knew him as the guy who would always end up on my Madden Fantasy-Draft Franchise mode team. Always has the right mix of decent rating and age.

Now I know why I never seemed to see him play, though.

2
by DavidL :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 3:42pm

On a related note, LJ Smith pulled his hamstring again.

3
by chemical burn :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 3:45pm

Ah, I was hoping (is that the right word?) to see Buckhalter on this list. I've always thought it's truly amazing that he was able to recover from his injuries and become a productive player - he's not an all-pro or anything, but the rest of that list is truly depressing.

He's a slightly above average back who always did a good job filling in for the similarly oft-injured Brian Westbrook, that's pretty impressive, all things considered...

4
by bingo762 :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 3:54pm

Did I miss something? No Cadillac Williams?

13
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 9:03pm

Guessing he hasn't been in the league long enough to qualify? He's only been around for four years, of which he's played what, a year and a half or so?

14
by Eddo :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 10:09pm

Williams was drafted in 2005, Dvoracek in 2006, so I think Williams qualifies. It's just that he actually managed to play in 28 games total over his first two season.

5
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 4:06pm

Five of eleven on that list are LB's. Wonder if that's an anomaly. Pretty easy to investigate, yes?

6
by Chris Owen (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 4:23pm

Going back to the 90's, anyone else remember Yatil Green? Two season ending knee injuries before each of his first two seasons. I swore that his second knee injury was on the other knee, but according to Wikipedia, it was the same knee both times. Also from that same article, his playing career consisted of a grand total of 9 games, all played in his third season. The Jets cut him during his fourth, and he didn't stick with the Raiders the year after.

12
by Marko :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 7:39pm

Yes, I remember him and his unfortunate injury history. Good call.

7
by Dice :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 4:23pm

Dan Cody and Pollack were always in my own Madden Fantasy franchises...switching Pollack to DE made him in the mid or high 80s, and Cody was a beast of a linebacker.

8
by Travis :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 6:10pm

Was Bennie Joppru (drafted 41st overall in 2003, injured reserve 2003-2005) too ineffective to make this list?

11
by Marko :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 7:36pm

When I saw this article, the first thing I thought was that Joppru has been injured even more than Dvoracek. As a Bears fan, I remember another Bears player besides Dvoracek who seemingly ended up on IR every year: TE Dustin Lyman.

9
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 6:34pm

No, Joppru should be in that list somewhere, at the very least. Need to look into what injury list(s) he was on.

10
by Theo :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 7:31pm

Maybe a some 'injured' players dress for emergency reasons, but don't play.
How often does it happen that all eligible players play on a given game day.

17
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:06am

You probably missed Joppru because you looked at players who "made their debut" between 2001 and 2005. Joppru didn't - he was on IR before the season opener in each of his first three years in the league. Despite being drafted in 2003, he didn't see the field until 2006, when he made his one regular season appearance as a Texan before joining the Seahawks, with whom he spent a couple of years as an occasional special teamer. He never caught an NFL pass.

I think guys like David Pollack and Charles Spencer don't really belong on the list - they didn't get injured a lot, just once very badly.

Yes, that is two Texans first day picks in the space of four years who combined for two NFL starts, thanks entirely to injury.

15
by c_f (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 10:36pm

IIRC, this latest maybe-ACL injury is on Dvoracek's other knee from his first ACL tear. Got to feel sorry for the guy. I know some guys have nagging injuries and I don't remember if Dvoracek was a medical risk out of Oklahoma, but it looks like this was just luck: ACLs on both knees, a foot and biceps. Not like recurring issues such as Westbrook's knees or Charles Tillman's shoulder.

(From a purely team-first perspective, Dvoracek was in an uphill battle to even make the 53-man.)

16
by MarkPolinsky (not verified) :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 1:13am

Not sure if he qualifies, and I actually was hoping to dig up more information about him, but was unable to. There was a Steeler earlier this decade, maybe late 90's, that broke his leg in back to back preseasons and missed the full season each time. I am 99% certain his last name was Bailey, and 50% sure his first name was William. He also wore #19 or some teens number and he was a receiver. Admittedly, it was preseason, and he was playing the 3rd and 4th quarters, but he did look to have some skill. I don't recall what happened after the second season he missed with a broken leg. Any additional information or articles would be great that you guys could provide would be great.

18
by incognito (not verified) :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:11am

Willie Reid?

19
by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:36am

I would figure you're referring to Henry Bailey. Bailey entered the league in 1995, which is before we started accumulating injury data (we have decent data for 96-00, and pretty reliable data for 01-08).

Bailey was drafted by the Steelers and missed the 1995 season, although I don't know why. He made it onto the Jets' roster in 1996 for eight games as a returner before heading back to Pittsburgh for the 1997 season.

It looks like he broke his leg in 1997, which would have been his third year. The following year, he broke his ankle in the preseason and never played again.

22
by MarkPolinsky (not verified) :: Sat, 08/29/2009 - 4:22am

Thanks so much! I couldn't find any info on that guy at all last night when I was looking. Though my dates were off, I had no idea it was '97-'98. Can not believe that was 12 years ago, wow. Was digging through old preseason box scores from 2000-'04.

20
by Bobman :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 4:10pm

Bah!

21
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 9:56pm

henry bailey crappy cearreat. tough break for him.

23
by t.d. :: Sun, 08/30/2009 - 8:20am

reminds me of mike sherrard, who missed 1987, 1988, and 1989. he was able to play for seven more seasons once he finally got healthy

24
by forcefulmuffin (not verified) :: Tue, 09/01/2009 - 12:15pm

three of those players are from ou including #1 & 2