He said he worries about players losing open weekends and playing even more draining, high-stakes games. For instance, what if that nailbiting, 35-31 win over Alabama in the national title game to end the 2017 season had been a semifinal?
“Now you sit there and look at these guys and say, ‘All right, guys, we got one more,’” Swinney said. “You’re just spent. You’re exhausted. … People say, It’s just one more game. To me, that is a total lack of appreciation for what it takes to win a game, to prepare for a game, to play in a game of that magnitude.”
Sports medicine Dr. Robert Cantu said coaches could minimize injury risk from the extra games by reducing, or even eliminating, full-contact drills in practice. The Ivy League has cut out such drills during the season, while the NFL limits teams to 14 padded sessions during the 18-week regular season.
“Obviously you increase the risk of the players by extending the season, not only the total number of blows that they’re going to take to the head but the chance for getting a pretty big one,” said Cantu, who is medical director and director of clinical research at the Cantu Concussion Center at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts.
There doesn’t appear to be a study specifically on the potential health impact of extra college games. A study led by Dr. Avinash Chandran, director of the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program at the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention, found the injury rate in preseason was higher than either the regular season or postseason. The study used injury data from the 2014-15 to 2018-19 academic years.