At the beginning of the 2008 football season, "owners" of Tom Brady were feeling pretty good. After all, they had a superstar quarterback on their roster who had proven to be a valuable commodity in the world of fantasy sports. Then, the unthinkable happened. Brady went down with a devastating injury and his season was over. Patriot fans gasped with disbelief, and fantasy owners who had Brady on their rosters were suddenly sent scrambling for a suitable replacement. What owners quickly discovered is that injuries like Brady's can have a major impact on people who play fantasy sports. Here are a few thoughts on how specifically injuries can change the way the game is played.
Loss of productivity
Obviously, an injured player means a loss of productivity for a fantasy owner. Some injuries are obviously more dramatic than others, particularly when a player was a top-ten pick during the draft. Fantasy sports is often about balance, so if an owner trades up to get a certain player and then they get injured, the fantasy manager may find themselves with a very thin roster. Of course, there are situations when an injury is a blessing in disguise. When a player gets hurt, the fantasy owner is forced to go with a bench player or a free agent. Sometimes that replacement turns out to be a player that produces a pleasant level of points.
Forced shuffling and lack of options
When a player gets injured, the fantasy owner needs to quickly make some changes. In deeper leagues, there may be bench players to fill the role. Otherwise, the owner must make a quick trade or add a free agent to their roster. In some cases an injury may not be all that major in terms of the overall season. When a fantasy owner loses a third outfielder, a kicker, or a third wide receiver, there may be worthy replacements. However, an injury to a number-one pitcher, a quarterback, or a star point guard may essentially end the fantasy season for owner who originally had a shot at winning the league. When a star player gets injured, the owner must then decide if they want to keep them on the bench and hope they come back and are effective during the season. In the case of someone like Brady, fantasy players also had wonder about drafting him the next year, as injuries of that magnitude can sometimes cause a player to never be the same again.
A player that gets injured may have major impacts on the strategy of the fantasy owner. Of course, experienced fantasy players understand that players have ups and down throughout the season and that unexpected and inconvenient injuries can occur. The owner that plans for those sorts of contingencies may be able to weather the storm and continue to succeed in a fantasy league. In other words, a major injury or several small injuries can expose just how thorough the fantasy strategy was at the beginning of the season.
Finally, injuries in fantasy sports can cause people to lose actual money. Fantasy sports does not always require a financial commitment, and some people play in free leagues "just for fun." However, some individuals pay entry fees and participate in leagues that have cash prizes. Therefore, injuries can actually cause some fantasy owners to be in jeopardy of losing their "investment." One article estimated that Tom Brady's injury caused a collective loss of $150 million in fantasy dollars.
Just part of the game
Overall, injuries are part of ever sport, and since fantasy sports use the performances of real players, there is also an impact on the games that are played by fantasy owners. As mentioned, some injuries require simple adjustments that do not derail an owner's chance of winning their league. However, some injuries remove key players from the league, which means that all the research and preparation put forth by fantasy owners could essentially be rendered meaningless for that year.