Today’s post will consist of identifying several terms used to describe injuries and educate on how to differentiate on what is being reported. I have used many of these terms before and have done my best to describe them, but I believe they are worthy of their own article. Today’s overviews will consist of the common muscle strain.
A muscle strain can occur in virtually any muscle within the body if the muscle is suddenly overworked, stretched, or fatigued to the point where the muscle becomes injured. A strain is classified as a strain due to an injury to the muscle itself or the muscle bone attachment which is called the tendon. There are varying grades of muscle strains which can progress up to a muscle tear, avulsion fracture, or rupture.
Grade 1 muscle strains are relatively minor and is when a portion of the muscle is torn; function may be limited, but is typically not serious and can heal up relatively quickly with proper management. This usually consists of stretching, icing, anti-inflammatory medications, and light strengthening exercises to restore proper movement. With effective management, this can be a week-to-week injury.
Grade 2 muscle strain is where a moderate portion of the muscle is torn which is typically associated with bruising, swelling, and partial loss of function which is demonstrated as difficulty performing the muscle movement and is typically limited secondary to pain. Rehab management will consist of generally the same procedures as Grade 1, but will take longer to heal up. I can not make a blanket statement and state that a Grade 2 muscle strain will take “X” number of weeks to heal up. It is typically more than week-to-week, but based on location and job duties of the position may dictate how long the player is out.
With an injury such as this close to the tendon occurs, if not healed up correctly or chronically injured/overused, the muscle or tendon may develop into a tendinitis based on healing. The suffix “-itis” is Latin for inflammation, which indicates that the tendon is irritated and may become painful over time. Most muscle/tendon fibers have consistent, linear striations, such as in a nice cut of beef or in the picture above. When the tendon does not heal correctly, the connective tissue heals in an uneven pattern as seen in the picture below. This does not allow for ideal effectiveness of the tendon, leading to increased pain, weakness, and loss of function. This could lead to tendonosis which is the chronic form of tendinitis and becomes even tougher to treat. Eventually, this can lead to a higher risk of rupture in the tendon later but is not a requirement for a rupture to occur.
Grade 3 is where most of the muscle is torn, there is typically significant damage and surgery is possibly required to repair the structural damage. There is significant swelling, bruising, and pain to the area due to the sudden and forceful nature of the injury. The muscle no longer is able to function as intended and pain limits the possibility to attempt. At this point, several other injuries may have occurred including avulsion fracture or ruptures. If an avulsion fracture or rupture has not occurred, surgery still many be indicated to assist the muscle in healing correctly.
In the case of an avulsion fracture, the tendon that attaches the muscle to the bone and acts as the anchor pulls away from the attachment point and takes a chunk of the bone with it. While this injury is uncommon, it still does happen. Surgery is sometimes indicated to reattach the bone to the original area and requires extended time missed, requiring the body to build up toleration to the muscle pulling on the attachment point without re-injuring the area.
Finally, a tendon rupture is when the tendon tears away from the attachment point but does not take a piece of bone with it. This is commonly seen in biceps and Achilles’ injuries, among other areas. If this injury occurs, the player may feel a pop with immediate loss of function. The muscle may act like a bungee cord and rebound violently and become balled up, leading to a deformity. These types of injuries also require surgery and cause a player to miss extended time due to the requirements of the muscle contraction and the actions of the muscle.
This is just a brief overview of the muscle strain and how to understand the various nuances of the wording and injury. Sometimes injuries such as calf and hamstring strains can follow a player for their career or never fully heal for sometime. The best thing that a player can do is hydrate well, stretch effectively, strengthen properly, and listen to their bodies. While the NFL is a tough sport, pain is expected, but trying to play through an injury may only worsen it and cause further complications down the line. Continue to check back for posts regarding other general injuries and broaden your knowledge base. GO BILLS!