Rubbing salt in the wound: Injury reaggravation in the NFL

The injury bug was at it again this week. Cleveland, Green Bay, Miami, New England, San Francisco, Washington, and both New York teams were hit the hardest as they saw three or more of their players fall to injury. Week 6 by the numbers:

42 = Number of players who missed game time due to injury.

8 = Number of players placed on season-ending IR.

2 = Number of patellar tendon ruptures.

5 = Number of players who reaggravated a pre-existing injury.

victor-cruz-injury-against-philadelphiaEight players suffered season-ending injuries this week, including fan favourite, Victor Cruz. The wide receiver of the New York Giants tore his patellar tendon (sound familiar, Olivia?) running an innocent looking end zone route. This goes to prove that we need to take care of our bodies, no matter who we are or what we do! With some solid rehab, we should see Cruz mount a comeback next season!

On to our topic of discussion for this week: injury reaggravation. Can you guess what is the number one predictor for suffering an injury?

Best predictor for suffering an injury?
Bad genetics
History of previous injury
Poor biomechanics/movement patterns
Unhealthy lifestyle (e.g. smoker)

Poll Maker

If you guessed previous history of injury, you are correct! Your prize is getting to read the rest of this blog post! And maybe you should pursue a career in rehab medicine. It is a very cool field after all. And we could be friends!

In week 6, we saw five players reaggravate pre-existing injuries. Three of the five are struggling with muscle-related (versus joint-related) problems. Let’s meet our unlucky contestants, shall we? Behind door number one, we have Carolina running back, Fozzy Whittaker! Hidden behind door two is another running back, Theo Riddick of Detroit! And lastly behind door three is Brandon Flowers (no, not the lead singer of The Killers), a cornerback for San Diego! So gentlemen, what is hampering your health right now?

Whittaker: Well, I originally hurt my quad in week 2. I skipped practice and three games. I thought it was all good but I pulled it again when we played the Bengals on Sunday.

Riddick: I tweaked my hamstring in week 4 and had to leave the game early. The next week, I didn’t train or play to give it some rest. Coach dressed me against the Vikings and I caught a pass for a touchdown ooh ooh! But later that game, I felt that same tweak and had to stop playing.

Flowers: In the first game of the season, my groin didn’t feel right. I rested during practice the following week and skipped one game. It started feeling better but then running around on Sunday in Oakland, it got pretty sore again.

reagg collageHave you ever “pulled” or “tweaked” a muscle before? Well, that is what a physio would call a muscle strain! When you have a strain, a portion of your muscle fibers are over stretched or maybe even torn. It’s no surprise that NFL players often experience these annoying, recurring issues. These guys work out or practice every day of the week in preparation for games. Simply put, there is not a whole lot of time for long walks on the beach or mani/pedi spa trips for these dudes! Muscles are pushed to their limit, start being overused, and then fatigue and fray. phoebe-running-oThink about running a marathon. You start strong, lungs and muscles working well in unison. But at the halfway point, your running technique starts falling apart. By the end, even Phoebe Buffay is a more efficient runner than you (no offense, Pheebs)! It’s not nice on the eyes and it’s not kind on the muscles and joints either. Overworking those poor muscles will eventually lead to pain, poor performance, or both!

In the case of our three contestants, we shouldn’t be shocked if they are on the mend for a few weeks. All three players acquired muscular injuries in previous weeks. All three players took some time off from training and games. But then all three players returned to the game before their muscle was completely repaired and encountered setbacks in week 6. So boys, when do you think it’s good time for you to return to play?

Whittaker: When I’ve gone through all the stages of rehabilitation and my muscle is fully healed!

Riddick: When my muscle isn’t causing me pain or discomfort with activity!

Flowers: Totes. What they said!

If you don’t give your damaged muscle enough time to heal properly, the chances of a reinjury are high. The last thing you want is an injury that troubles you for weeks, months, or even years. It’s like picking at a scab instead of letting it fall off naturally. If you interfere with the healing process, your new skin cells won’t be as tough as before. So the next time you lightly bump your arm on the corner of a table, that wound is going to open up all over again. The lesson learned? Don’t pick at scabs and don’t return to activity too early after a muscle strain!

Hopefully, our three contestants also learn that lesson (by reading this blog, of course) and are more careful with their rehab this time around. When they begin recovery the second time around, they should start with light strengthening and low impact cardio, like biking. Then they graduate to more dynamic and explosive strengthening exercises – think running, sprinting, and plyometrics. tempIMG_8029--nfl_mezz_1280_1024Once strength and power are restored, the next step is to tax the muscle in sport-specific movement patterns. Athletes will attempt specific drills (e.g. route running or blocking dummy sleds) before being integrated back into full-contact team practices. If there are no signs or symptoms of the previous injury through these rehab stages, the player should be safe to return to games. Fingers crossed our three guys are 100% healthy when they step back on the field!

If any of this talk about injury reaggravation sounds familiar, it’s probably a good idea to get your nagging muscle assessed! Reoccurring injuries need more than TLC to whip back into shape. And lucky for you, I recently heard of a physio who might know a thing or two that could help your return to sport (and also wants to be your friend)! So, we’ll talk soon, okay?

– Chris (2-4)

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