The 2011 CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA significantly altered practice procedures for all teams. There were also adjustments to the rules regarding the number of sessions that may be held in the summer, the number of practices that could be held per day during training camp, and the number of full-contact workouts that could be held throughout the season.
Though intended to make the game safer for players, these alterations may have had the opposite effect. The first few weeks of recent seasons have seen a high rate of injuries. Some of them can be the result of not being physically ready for the rigors of professional football and not putting in enough work on the field. Most of these wounds are superficial ones.
Professional football games typically feature high levels of force and short length, neither of which favor the soft tissue’s ability to adapt to change and stress. Once the regular season starts, it might be hard on soft tissues if they haven’t been prepared for the tremendous forces they’ll be subjected to.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ 2022 season opener was hampered by these types of injuries. Examining the injuries of two superstars is a good place to start.
Cornerback Trent McDuffie
After suffering a hamstring strain in the team’s 44-21 Week 1 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the rookie cornerback was placed on the Reserve/Injured (injured reserve) list for Week 2. After the team plays four games, he can come back.
On a scale from one to three, strains are classified as I, II, or III (mild to severe with complete tear). All strains, however, result in some degree of soft-tissue tears. Since McDuffie is already on IR, we may assume that the strain was at least a Grade II or III given that he was put on the disabled list.
There are three muscles that make up the hamstrings. The biceps femoris is the largest of the leg muscles, followed by the semitendinosus and the semimembranous.
Commonly affected is the biceps femoris, a muscle in the upper thigh. Most injuries happen as athletes are slowing down from a sprint, as this is when the eccentric phase of muscle contraction occurs (when the tendon is stretching).
— Chiefs Wire (@TheChiefsWire) September 18, 2022
McDuffie and his athletic trainers are probably using an underwater treadmill and/or a stationary bicycle to help with range of motion, inflammation control, and pain management now that he is two weeks out from the accident. Mild injuries may include stretching and early-stage strengthening.
In the coming weeks, McDuffie will likely undergo an eccentric strengthening progression in order to get him ready for his return. Without inside knowledge, predicting whether or not he will be able to play in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills after being placed on injured reserve is a tall order. McDuffie’s return to action may be delayed until late October or early November, depending on his rehabilitation progress.
Placekicker Harrison Butker
Butker also looked to sustain a textbook lateral ankle injury while playing the Cardinals. This is the most common type of ankle sprain and is caused by a jarring inversion of the ankle, which then damages the ankle’s outer components.
Although his walk was visibly painful after the kick, Butker was able to return to the game and (amazingly) kick a one-step 54-yard field goal after having his ankle wrapped for increased stability. It was likely just a moderate sprain since he was able to return to the field to kick when the Chiefs took the lead.
However, the fact that this is Butker’s “plant” leg makes recuperation more difficult. It’s important to reinforce the ankle’s stability because weight-bearing through that joint puts more strain on torn ligaments. Butker is expected to return to action in the next week or two, and with a 10-day mini-bye beginning after Thursday Night Football, the timing couldn’t be better. However, the Chiefs may wait for Butker to fully recuperate if Matt Amendola continues to perform well in relief.
Bumped and bruised from Los Angeles Chargers game
At first glance, it seemed like the Chiefs made it through the short week uninjured. Head coach Andy Reid mentioned defensive end Mike Danna’s (calf strain) and wide receivers Mecole Hardman’s (ankle), Marquez Valdes-(glute), Scantling’s, and Justin Watson’s (hamstring strain) injuries in the postgame news conference (shoulder). He brushed them off as inconsequential details.
Hardman’s injury looked the worst from a spectator’s perspective due to the high ankle mechanism upon landing, but he was able to return to the game as well. As with Butker, these guys will have an extra week to heal up before Week 3’s matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite early season injuries, the Chiefs have been able to maintain success in 2022. They have shown depth with other players stepping up. Safety Replacing Butker well were Justin Reid (and Amendola) and Jaylen Watson (who replaced McDuffie and made the play of his young career).
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