Things That Don't Scare Me: Matt Schaub Edition

I'm not so old that I don't remember what it was like being a kid. Like most young boys, I was pretty fearless, and I had a confidence that had no basis in reality, but rather in the simple belief that I really could outrun that dog or jump over that ditch.

When I got hurt, which was often, I was always rather surprised, but it never seemed to subdue that confidence in any way.

Until I got older.

They say that with age comes wisdom, but I think that a better, if less eloquent phrasing might be that as we age, we've skinned enough knees, gotten enough stitches, and otherwise messed ourselves to the point that we've better learned how to avoid those situations. That's not to say I don't still skin a knee in a soccer game, or draw some blood thinking I'm a better carpenter than I really am, but those scenarios are not as common as they once were.

Everybody who grows up past the age of 30 eventually learns this. It's essential for survival. Those who learn young grow up with fewer scars and fewer broken bones than those who learn later. The former often end up becoming engineers, businessmen, and amateur bloggers (or some messed up combination of the three). The latter: athletes.

Yes, it's pretty much a prerequisite of those within the athletic profession to be willing to put oneself in harm's way. It's why far more athletes are familiar with knee surgery than are accountants.

As such, athletes get hurt. You know this. I know this. My wife -- who, if you add up all the minutes of football she's ever seen by accidentally walking by the TV while a game was on, still couldn't say she's watched an entire game -- knows this.

Those who do not get hurt likely do not have some mystical skill that allows them to avoid injury. They're probably just lucky.

Yet despite this knowledge, we continue to label some athletes as more prone to injury than others based not on the nature of the injuries themselves, but rather on the frequency.

I speak, of course, of Matt Schaub (which you already knew if you bothered to read the title).

As you can probably gather from my final pre-jump sentence, I don't doubt that certain athletes are more susceptible to injury than others, but the determination as to who is injury-prone and who isn't should not be based on a simple tally.

Let me describe for you how I define the term "injury-prone." In my estimation -- and keep in mind that I have as much of a background in medical science as my cat -- an athlete becomes injury-prone if they fall into one of two categories:

  1. They have a constant recurrence (meaning more than once or twice) of the same injury that occurs with little to no contact; or
  2. They continuously put themselves in undesirable positions during a competition where they may receive a higher-than-normal level of contact (be it in terms of occurrence or severity), thus making them more likely to become injured.

An example of #1 would be someone who has a weak knee, or a recurring hamstring issue. There may be an anatomical issue which makes that person more likely to have a strain or a blowout or it could just be a previous issue that never healed right and is constantly reaggravated.

An example of #2 would be, perhaps, Matt Schaub, circa 2007. The current incarnation of Matt Schaub, however, I do not believe falls into either category.

If we look at the five years that Schaub has quarterbacked your Houston Texans, we find the following:

  • 2007: Missed five games. One because of a concussion as a result of a cheap shot by the Chargers' Stephen Cooper Drayton Florence in Week 9, and four from a dislocated shoulder which came from being driven into the ground by the Titans' Antwan Odom. He also missed time in the previous Titans game after another hit from Odom.
  • 2008: Missed five games. One when he was sick (which ended up being the Rosencopter game that made the rest of us sick), and four as a result of a shot to the knee delivered by the Vikings' Jared Allen.
  • 2009: Played all 16 games.
  • 2010: Played all 16 games.
  • 2011: Missed six games because Albert Haynesworth is too fat.

If we were to go by sheer count, then yes, Schaub is injury-prone because he's missed 16 games in the past five years. Because he's only played a full slate in two of the last three years. Because he hasn't found a way to stay in the lineup.

These are all arguments, by the way, that you're likely to hear as the season approaches from those who don't want to read beyond a game count.

Yet, if you accept my definition of "injury-prone" and you actually look at each injury, there is not a whole lot to back up that argument. Of those sixteen games, five were directly the result of an illegal hit (which was flagged), four were from a hit that could have been illegal (the Odom hit), one was because he was sick, and six were because Haynesworth is too fat.

You might argue that the 2007 injuries were the result of putting himself in bad spots, but the 2011 injury cannot be chalked up to anything other than bad luck (unless you argue that he has an abnormally weak foot that was just waiting to be broken by a fat man).

Furthermore, in watching Schaub play these last five years and in listening to both him and Kubiak speak, it is clear that Schaub has finally grown up a bit and learned to better steer away from potentially dangerous contact (tying it back to the intro.... check!).

So all of that is to say that I do not worry about Matt Schaub suffering another injury this season any more than I do any other player.

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