It was reported that Shaq Lawson injured his groin in practice Thursday and is now a game time decision for Sunday against Atlanta. Lawson has been on a tear this season in limited action, totaling 10 tackles, 2 sacks, nearly equaling his output from last year. He has begun to live up to draft expectations coming out of Clemson in 2016 and is a reason why the Bills defense has returned to top form this season.
As Lawson is a game time decision on Sunday, it would be better to understand what a groin injury is and how it affects his play. The groin is a series of muscles that attach from the lower hip in the hip crease to the inside portion of the thigh. These muscles assist in bringing the leg to midline, flexing the hip up, and internally/externally rotating the hip. These actions are vital to the actions of the defensive end with regards to shuffling, running, and pivoting. This is typically seen when trying to run down a player or having to stop suddenly. This can also be seen during eccentric contraction of the adductors which is seen during blocking and shuffling along the line.
Illustration 1: Credit: physioworks.com.au
Lawson reports that his groin is sore and that he will be alright. Despite a positive outlook from Lawson, it is still beneficial to understand how the groin is injured. Typically, the groin muscles are injured when the individual is sprinting or changing directions quickly. As this is a soft tissue injury, there are various grades that the muscle strain can be broken down into to assess severity based on location and mechanism of injury.
Grade 1 involves an injury to the area due to overloading the area, causing microtears and weakening the anchor point, causing pain and inflammation. This is usually a week-to-week injury and if rehabbed properly, should not be an issue long term. The injury typically is seen more in the muscle belly, which is the meaty portion of the muscle. Pain may be felt in the inner thigh or in the groin itself if the muscle is overloaded.
Grade 2 involves a partial tear to the muscle belly or attachment point leading to an inability to walk normally, much less perform the duties of the position. This injury takes longer, anywhere from 4-8 weeks based on severity and must be managed conservatively. Typically, injuries closer to the attachment points can become more chronic and lead to extended time missed. This is due to the nature of the muscle having to pull on the anchor in order to function properly. If the anchor point is not secure, pain and ineffective use of the muscle continue to occur.
Grade 3 typically involves tearing of the attachments closer to the femur, which is known as the distal insertion points. Commonly, the muscle is torn partially or fully away from the bone, leading to surgical intervention. These type of injuries do not happen often, but as with any muscle injury, can occur.
It is not known what caused Lawson’s injury, but it is certainly significant enough to cause him to be a game time decision. I believe that Lawson’s groin injury is a Grade 1, supported by the remark that it is sore and that he will be alright. An athlete knows his body best and barring any re-injury during warm ups, should play Sunday. There is always the risk to increase the severity by playing through, but with proper stretching and warm ups, along with the continued limited snap count, Lawson should be fine. Considering that Lawson has been playing up to the level we expected when drafted, it will be beneficial to have him pressuring Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense. This is a winnable game if the Bills play to the level they did last week against a very good Broncos team. Continue to check back for updates and further analysis regarding Bills injuries, GO BILLS!!