MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins lost tight end Dustin Keller to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. As the regular season continues to march on, Keller’s injury was a foreshadowing of an alarming trend in the most popular sport in America.

Most NFL teams will have played half of their season by the time the final games this weekend end Monday night. While injuries are naturally part of a physical game, the rash of season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injuries continues to grow with each passing week.

In 2013 alone, there have been a total of 45 documented anterior cruciate ligament tears across the NFL. No player is safe either as both bench warmers and stars have seen their season cut short due to a tear in the knee ligament.

For comparison purposes, Will Carroll, lead writer for sports medicine on Bleacher Report said there was a total of 32 ACL tears in the full 2012 season.

A partial list of players with torn ACL’s in 2013 reads like an all-star team: Reggie Wayne, Melvin Ingram, Jeremy Maclin, Arrelious Benn, Keller, Will Smith, Maurkice Pouncey, Vick Ballard, Sam Bradford, Mike Goodson, and Bryan Bulaga.

Another player was added to the list Thursday night when All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins went down in a heap during the Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals game. Atkins was injured in the second quarter and made it to the sideline with the help of two teammates.

Atkins was in the midst of another stellar season when he was injured in the eighth game of the season.

The difficulty NFL teams and team doctor’s face is trying to isolate what is causing the dramatic increase in ACL tears this season. Some have blamed limited practice time and others have said it’s the result of defenders looking to go low to avoid fines for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Whatever the underlying cause is, if one can be determined, the league will have to determine if there’s anything it can do to help avoid these types of injuries or run the risk of the product deteriorating due to star players being lost for season.


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