This week we saw two key running backs leave the game early with hamstring strains. Marshawn Lynch left the game at halftime and never returned. The diagnosis at this time is a mild hamstring strain after an MRI was performed yesterday. Typically you get a little more detail from these MRIs but the news has been vague and sparse. What is interesting about Lynch’s injury is that he entered week 3 questionable to play with a calf strain. As physical therapists that work in sports medicine rehab, it is not uncommon for us to see this type of situation where one injury quickly leads to another if an athlete tries to return to their sport too quickly. In this case, a calf strain followed by a hamstring strain is not surprising in the least, especially for a powerful runner like Lynch. The calf muscle (gastrocnemius and soleus) primarily acts to point the foot downward like in a heel raise type exercise or pushing off when running. However, it also assists the hamstrings in bending the knee (flexion). It makes sense that if you strain the calf muscle and it’s not contributing as much to knee flexion, then your hamstrings (the primary knee flexor) may take on the extra load and potentially lead to injury.
LeSean McCoy also left last Sunday’s game with a hamstring strain. Unfortunately, this is the second time he has strained his hamstring since training camp. The fact that he has now had two significant injuries to the same hamstring likely means he is going to miss some extra time. This time around, if he doesn’t allow for adequate rest to allow the muscle to heal completely, this could be a lingering problem for the entire season.
Knowing the severity of these injuries would be helpful in determining how much time will be missed but unfortunately it is difficult to find this information. We are going to speculate that Lynch has a Grade 1 hamstring strain and McCoy is dealing with a strain closer to a Grade 2 since this is the second time it has happened. The image below gives a good visual of the difference between a Grade 1 vs a Grade 2 hamstring strain.
If you ever wondered what the rehab looked like for a hamstring strain, here is an excellent video of a typical exercise protocol starting from very basic strengthening exercises and progressing over time to sport specific drills. At Therapydia Denver, Josh and I would also incorporate various type of hands on manual therapy including myofascial release, trigger point dry needling, stretching, and joint mobilizations as needed.
Prediction: LeSean McCoy misses weeks 4 and 5. Returns week 6 against Bengals
Prediction: Marshawn Lynch misses week 4. Returns week 5 against Bengals