Week 12 and its infamous shoulder pandemic marked the last week with any teams on byes for the regular season. That means we will have 16 games every week from here on out! If you were busy with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, allow me to share week 13 by the numbers:
36 = Number of players who missed game time due to injury.
4 = Number of players placed on season-ending IR.
3 = Number of hamstring injuries.
98 = Number of injuries sustained by shoppers on Black Friday.
Apparently, I need to write a blog post on Black Friday injuries! But back to the NFL where one of my very own Tennessee Titans, Justin Hunter, was hurt. On the second play of the first Titans drive, Hunter was drilled in the abdomen by Danieal Manning, a safety for the Houston Texans. He returned for the next drive but then left the game afterwards. His teammate Nate Washington told the press that Hunter was coughing up blood on the sidelines. Yikes! I’m no doctor but hacking up blood does not sound healthy. Hunter was taken to the hospital after the game and diagnosed with a lacerated spleen. If you watch closely enough, you can actually see his spleen yell, “Nooooo!” just before he’s hit. Poor guy. Hunter stayed in the hospital for a few days but did not require surgery. Regardless, the Titans put him on the injured reserve so, sadly, I will not be seeing Mr. Hunter in uniform for the rest of the season. Best of luck to you, Justin! If you could come back next year healthy and maybe a little better, that would be splendid. Signed, a lifelong Titans fan.
Did you know that every person comes complete with 2 hamstrings? One on the right leg and a matching one on the left leg? Can you guess what this week’s focus is on? Quads! Yes, that’s right. Wait, what? No…
The hamstring is a group of muscles that are more affectionately known as the “muscles on the back of my thigh.” Did you know that your hamstring is actually made up of 3 separate muscles? Or that they were named after Hamm from Toy Story? Okay, so one of those facts may still be under debate. For now, let’s look at the different muscles that form the hamstring!
- Semitendinosus = medial hamstring. This is the long skinny guy in the rat pack. Here’s a true fun fact about the semitendinosus: ACL reconstructions using the hamstring take the graft from tendon of this muscle!
- Semimembranosus = medial hamstring. This is the wider guy in the rat pack. Here’s a false fun fact about the semimembranosus: he does Eminem cover shows under his stage name, Semimem!
- Biceps femoris = lateral hamstring. This is the stronger but sort of outcasted guy in the rat pack. The biceps femoris hangs out all by his lonesome on the outside of the thigh. Here’s a probably true fact about the biceps femoris: he’s sad that the biceps in the arm gets more press than he does. Show this man some love, people!
In week 13, there were 3 hamstring injuries incurred by Greg Salas (New York Jets wide receiver), Aaron Dobson (New England Patriots wide receiver), and Austin Pasztor (Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman). Salas and Dobson pulled their hammies whereas Pasztor is reportedly out for the season with a torn hamstring. I’m sure you’ve seen someone pull a hamstring before – whether it was on TV or in person. The classic mechanism is a person running at full speed who suddenly pulls up and grabs at the back of their leg. That is your standard hamstring strain. This muscle is often damaged with rapid contraction (e.g. sprinting) or rapid stretching (e.g. kicking a soccer ball).Unfortunately, NFL injury reports aren’t super detailed so we don’t know what exact muscle (or muscles) was affected in these 3 gentlemen. But quite honestly, the more important piece of information is how they hurt their hamstring. When taking someone’s history, it is crucial to understand their mechanism of injury because it gives us a rough idea of how long rehab will be and what exercises are the most beneficial.
Before we jump into that, I should probably tell you what the hamstring does. The hammy is actually a two-joint muscle. This means it crosses two different joints! Can you guess which ones? If you said the hip and the knee, you are correct! To collect your prize, come to our Heritage Valley location at 7:00 am and bring me a tea. In exchange, you will get a very heartfelt hug followed by a very enthusiastic high five. If I’m very tired, you might end up with a single tear of joy on your sweater.
So in short, the hamstring has two main actions! It extends the hip as well as flexes the knee! Wowee! It deserves a raise, don’t you think? Whenever you move your leg directly behind you or bend at your knee, you’re recruiting your hams! We use this muscle when we’re getting up from a crouched or sitting position and when we’re running.
So when one of these NFL guys is sprinting down the field to catch a ball, they’re generating a lot force through their hamstring with every step they take and every move they make. And every single day, every time they pray, they’ll be using them (please sing to the tune of P. Diddy’s I’ll Be Missing You). Check out the diagram below which highlights what muscles are working during different phases of sprinting. The blue box outlines hamstring activity. It contracts during two phases of running: as you are pushing off the ground and then again just before you plant your foot. At push off, it works to propel your leg into swing phase. Prior to heel strike, it works to decelerate your hip and extend your leg so you can plant your foot without faceplanting. Like any other muscle, if they get overworked, they’re eventually going to fray and snap. And that’s when athletes like Salas, Dobson, and Pasztor run into problems – literally and figuratively!
As I mentioned before, the mechanism of injury will guide rehab. Now I didn’t see the Salas or Dobson injuries, but it’s pretty safe to assume that they were hurt while running routes. In this case, the hamstring was damaged with rapid contraction – or while being shortened. These types of strains tend to be more painful acutely but have a shorter recovery time in comparison to strains that occur when the muscle is being stretched or lengthened.
Physio exercises will focus mostly on eccentric strengthening. An eccentric contraction occurs when a muscle lengthens while it exerts force. For example, think about doing a biceps curl. When you curl your hand up toward your shoulder, your biceps shortens while it works. When you slowly lower your hand down toward the starting position, your biceps lengthen while it works to control the descent! (Biceps femoris, I’m really sorry for promoting the biceps in your arm, please forgive me.) A really awesome eccentric exercise for the hamstring is the Nordic hamstring curl.
With the Nordic hamstring curl, you generate eccentric activity as you slowly lower your body down to the ground. Please note that this exercise is pretty tough! It’s not meant for everyone so chat with your local physio (hopefully that’s me, winky face!) before you whip out multiple reps of this bad boy.
Hamstring strains can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to heal before returning to sport. Mechanism of injury, severity of damage, and previous injury are the key factors to consider when determining how long an athlete will be out for. Hopefully for Salas and Dobson, they won’t miss much time as there are only 4 weeks left in the regular season! As for Pasztor, he’ll likely have surgery to repair his torn muscle. Shucks, eh!
Well, folks! I hope you all had a jolly good time learning about hamstring strains this week! May this blog also provide a subtle hint to foam roll your hammy to reduce the chance of injury. Cheers, y’all!
– Chris (5-8)