Injury report: when pro teams have to reveal player’s status

While the NFL has a very detailed process for reporting injuries, the NHL takes a vaguer approach. Here’s how the four main professional sports leagues compare.

For many coaches from professional sports teams, there is gamesmanship to what is given to reporters and is spread through the media.

Oftentimes, there is an underlying motive to certain statements and releases that go beyond the words on the page or in the article.

It’s not just about what is said but also what isn’t said – including a player’s status.

Legendary coaches like Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich have been known to play their cards close to their chest, giving their opponents as little information as possible for the shortest amount of time before they take the field or court.

But what do the rules say for different professional sports leagues as to when teams must provide an official status for their players?

NFL

The National Football League (NFL) has a “Personnel (Injury) Report Policy” that explains what each team must comply with week-to-week during the season.

This report is made up of three sections:

  • Practice report
  • Game status report
  • In-game injury report

With the practice report, all players who have reportable injuries must be listed here, even if the player takes all the reps in practice, and even if the team is certain that he will play in the upcoming game.

A team has to provide its full practice report the three previous days before a game no later than 4 pm EST. So, if a team is playing on Thursday, they must provide this report on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The only time teams must provide it earlier than the three previous days is for Saturday games. In this situation, the practice report must be provided on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The players’ status on the practice report must fall under one of three categories:

  • Did not participate
  • Limited participation
  • Full participation

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Injuries must be identified with a reasonable degree of specificity in terms that are meaningful to coaches, other club officials, the media and the public. For example, leg injuries must be specified as ankle, knee, thigh or calf. Arm injuries must be identified as shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand or muscle. Listing an injury simply as “leg,” “arm,” “upper body,” or other equally equally vague description, is not acceptable, according to league officials.

Along those lines, the NFL says when teams provide injury updates, the information must be “credible, accurate, timely, and specific within the guidelines of the policy.”

Each club must also file a weekly regular-season game status reports with the NFL Communications department by 4 pm EST on Wednesday for a Thursday game, Friday for a Sunday game, Saturday for a Monday game, and Thursday for a Saturday game.

An update must be reported if there is any change to a player’s condition after the initial report is filed.

Players must be categorized on this report as follows:

If a player will not play – whether due to injury or non-injury reasons – that fact must be reported. If a player’s game status is in question for non-injury reasons, that information must appear in the game status report and be explained publicly and included in the release issued by the club to the media.

Teams are responsible for reporting in-game injury information accurately as soon as possible “for the benefit of the network television audience and the other media covering our games.”

According to the NFL, these injury updates must also be posted on the stadium video boards, scoreboards or ribbon boards.

“It is NFL policy that information for dissemination to the public on all injured players be reported in a satisfactory manner by clubs to the league office, the opposing team, local and national media, and broadcast partners each game week of the regular season and postseason (including for the two Super Bowl teams between the Championship Games and Super Bowl). “

NBA

The National Basketball Association (NBA) makes each team provide the league with an “injury report” before games that includes players’ injuries, illnesses and rest status.

By 5 pm local time on the day before a game (other than the second day of a back-to-back), teams must designate a participation status and identify a specific injury, illness or potential instance of a healthy player resting for any player whose participation in the game may be affected by such injury, illness or rest.

For the second game of a back-to-back, teams must report the same information by 1 pm local time on the day of the game.

The league usually issues its own reports at 1:30 pm, 5:30 pm, and 8:30 pm

Reports are updated on a continual basis throughout the day.

Teams must announce starting lineups 30 minutes before tip-off, according to the NBA.

Teams also must have at least eight players in uniform and ready to play in each game. NBA teams can have no more than three players on their inactive lists.

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MLB

In Major League Baseball (MLB), each team has three different “injured lists”, depending on the severity of the injury, which are as followed:

The 7-day injured list is specifically for players with concussion symptoms. Players may be placed on the 7-day injured list “retroactively,” meaning the stint is backdated to the day after the last date on which the player appeared in a game. For instance, if a player is diagnosed with a concussion on May 12 but last played on May 9, he could be placed on the 7-day injured list on May 12, retroactive to May 10. In that case, he would be eligible to return from the injured list on May 17.

The 10-day injured list allows teams to remove injured players from the 26-man active roster while keeping them on the 40-man roster.

Players can be placed on the 10-day injured list for any type of injury, though players with concussion symptoms are first sent to the 7-day injured list. Players on the 10-day injured list must remain out of action for at least 10 days, though a player can also stay on the list for considerably longer than 10 days, if necessary.

Players may be placed on the 10-day injured list “retroactively,” similar to how the 7-day injured list works.

The maximum an injured list stint can be backdated is three days.

The 60-day injured list is the longest of the MLB injured lists. Players placed on this list must remain on it for a minimum of 60 days and are temporarily removed from a suffering 40-man roster, which often makes this a last resort for clubs.

If a team does not need a 40-man roster spot to replace an injured player, the player may be kept on the 10-day injured list longer than 60 days rather than being transferred to the 60-day injured list. That way, the team won’t need to risk losing another player by going through the process to clear a spot on the 40-man roster when the injured player is ready to return.

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In the 2017 season, the 10-day injured list replaced the 15-day injured list as the shortest option for non-concussion injuries. The MLB was set to bring back the 15-day injured list specifically for pitchers and two-way players while instituting new restrictions on position players pitching for the 2020 season, but the rules were changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than a 10-day injured list for position players and 15-day injured list for pitchers and two-way players, the 10-day injured list remained in place for all players in the shortened season. There also were no restrictions on position players pitching.

There was also a separate COVID-19 injured list that had no minimum duration, and the 60-day injured list was reduced to 45 days.

Before the 2019 season, the injured list was known as the disabled list, which was a term used as far back as 1887.

This name change happened after disability advocates spoke out about the need for the term to be more consistent with other professional sports leagues and be changed to “injured reserve list.”

NHL

Each team in the National Hockey League (NHL) has an “injured reserve list.”

If a player is injured and a team wants to place him on this list, the club must follow these procedures:

  • A club may place a player on the injured reserve list if that player is injured, disabled or ill and unable to perform his duties as a hockey player after having passed the club’s initial physical examination in that season.
  • A player who has an injury that renders him physically unable to play for a minimum of seven days after the date of the injury can be placed on the injured injured reserve list. Once a player is placed on the list, the club may replace that player on its NHL roster with another player. All determinations that a player has suffered an injury warranting injured reserve status must be made by the club’s medical staff and in accordance with the club’s medical standards.
  • A player placed on the injured reserve list is ineligible to compete in NHL games for a period of no less than seven days.
  • Players on the injured reserve list may attend club meetings and meals, travel with the team and participate in practice sessions.

Unlike the NFL, the NHL is vaguer with its rules and does not have specific requirements related to releasing injury information to the public. Oftentimes, teams will reference either the “upper body” or “lower body” as to what part of the body the injury is impacting.

The list of players “belonging” to an NHL team is comprised of the following, the total of which may not exceed 80:

  1. Pro players (maximum of 50)
  2. Signed junior players (who have played less than 11 professional games)
  3. Unsigned draft choices
  4. Defected players (unsigned draft choices who are playing in Europe)

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