I know I was supposed to retire my NFL blog for the year but I just couldn’t resist! What can I say, teaching you lovely folk about injuries is now a favourite hobby of mine!
Plus I feel like I haven’t talked to you in a long time… So, how are you doing? How are your New Years resolutions going? Wow! You’ve already run a marathon, visited your parents, got promoted, and traveled to Africa? That’s super impressive. Good on you, friend!
Manning has been known to be an exceptional pocket passer. For you non-football fans, that means he doesn’t run around a whole lot. Rather, he prefers to move within a small radius to find the perfect throw.
So when Manning was listed on week 15’s injury report with a “thigh strain”, no one thought much of it. First off, the play on which he was hurt looked relatively innocent. You can see it below. Watch for #18 in white (aka da “Man”ning) who goes to block a linebacker and bounces right off. Looks like pretty harmless play, right? Secondly, as a pocket passer, Manning doesn’t tend to run around as much as other quarterbacks in the league. Less running means less stress on the quad. Phew! Crisis averted! And that’s exactly what it seemed like as Manning was able to close out the regular season without sitting out a single game.
The Broncos finished with a 12-4 regular season record which was enough to earn them a first round bye in the playoffs. As it so happens, an extra week to rest his thigh was exactly one of Manning’s three wishes! And here’s where Peyton asked me to send a shout out to the one and only genie.
But despite having a week off to rest his leg, Manning was clearly struggling on Sunday night in the Broncos’ playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. The 5-time league MVP was uncharacteristically missing short throws, long throws, and a bunch of throws in between.
Wait a minute, back it up now! I said he had a thigh injury… Not an arm injury. Why is a bummed leg affecting his throwing? This brings us to my favourite segment: audience participation!
Grab a piece of paper and crumble it up. Set your garbage can 3 meters away from you (and for all you imperialists, that’s about 10 feet). Picture this: with 5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, you have to hit Rubbish McTrashcan for the game-winning touchdown. Do you have what it takes?! Stand up, aim for the Rubbish, and throw that paper football like a pro quarterback! Touchdown! The crowd goes wild and your team lifts you up on their shoulders! Now try the same thing but sit down. You are forced to use your upper body and arm a lot more to produce your throwing motion! If you still managed to toss your paper football directly into the open arms of Rubbish McTrashcan, consider yourself elite. You should probably quit your job, find an agent, and try out for the NFL pronto!
Hopefully now you understand that the legs are actually quite vital to the throwing motion. We generate a bunch of power through our legs that contributes to our throwing accuracy and strength.
Then in the aftermath of Sunday’s loss came an article from ESPN that confirmed that Manning was suffering from a quad injury. Initially thought of as a low grade strain, the new reports revealed that Manning had actually played with a torn rectus femoris. Woof!
The rectus femoris is one of the four quad muscles. It starts at the front of the hip, runs down the thigh, and attaches just below the knee. Because it crosses the hip and knee, it produces motion at both joints: hip flexion (bending) and knee extension (straightening). Not only would tearing a quad muscle be painful, but it would also have a huge impact on a quarterback’s throwing mechanics.
The ESPN article even mentions that Manning had bruising that spread from his quads around to his hamstrings. Bruising that spans the entire circumference of your thigh is never good news. Extensive bruising usually indicates a higher grade strain. But what is a strain really? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a quick summary of muscle strains:
- Grade 1 strain = Muscle is overstretched or has a small tear. Pain is usually mild. Swelling and bruising are likely absent.
- Grade 2 strain = Muscle has a moderate tear. Pain is accompanied by swelling and bruising at the site of the injury.
- Grade 3 strain = Muscle is completely torn. Severe pain is accompanied by significant swelling and extensive bruising. General movement is difficult.
The earlier reports of Manning’s injury were not inaccurate. Technically, he did have a quad strain. It just so happens that a grade 3 strain is the equivalent of a complete muscle tear. For simplicity’s sake, a strain means any damage to muscle fibers. But to really understand the true nature of the injury, you need to know the grade of the strain.
For example, I just strained my quad returning to soccer on Sunday because I haven’t played in a month. Let’s ignore the other contributing factors that I am no longer a young whippersnapper and spent the last month eating Christmas sweets. But my quad injury is more along the lines of a grade 1 strain. It’s sore but it hasn’t stopped me from working out. I’ll be able to play next week when I’m done whining about my sore muscle. However, if I had a grade 2 or 3 strain, playing soccer next week would be out of question. It takes a lot longer than a few days for grade 2 and 3 strains to heal than grade 1 strains.
In Manning’s case, playing with a grade 3 rectus femoris strain (or tear) was a dealbreaker. When it came down to tossing a football, the strength he lacked in his legs could not be accounted for elsewhere in his body. Having undergone two previous neck surgeries in 2011, Manning has dealt with diminished arm strength over the past 3 seasons. Tack on a torn quad to an already weak arm and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Even though I will never personally forgive Manning for choosing to join the Broncos over the Titans in free agency, I hope this injury doesn’t signal the end of his career. I would love to see that guy continue to break records, dance, or – better yet – host SNL again.