Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey sustained a hamstring injury in Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans. After the game, Texans head coach Matt Rhule said the team doesn’t yet know the severity of the injury or how long it will keep McCaffrey sidelined.
On his popular YouTube channel, sports medicine physician Dr. Brian Sutterer took his best guess at what it could mean for the former Pro Bowler, who previously suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in week nine of the 2020-2021 season, as well as a high ankle sprain in week 2.
Sutterer begins by acknowledging that the Panthers haven’t yet said which side of his body McCaffrey injured. While analyzing the footage, Sutterer says he assumes it’s the right side, which McCaffrey was favoring when he limped off the field. Focusing on a still shot of McCaffrey’s final run, Sutterer zeroes in on the moment McCaffrey hops and makes a stutter-step, and guesses that’s when the injury occurred.
“Most of the time when these hamstring muscles get hurt, they’re injured up more by their origin near the pelvis,” he says.
Sutterer focuses specifically on a moment called the “terminal swing phase” of the run—when you’re stretching the hamstring maximally, putting the hamstring in a lengthened position while the foot is out in front. Then the hamstring eccentrically fires, Sutterer says, meaning it fires while it’s out in front of you to help pull the leg backwards. That’s when McCaffrey’s injury seems to occur.
As McCaffrey jogs off the field, it’s difficult to tell which side he’s favoring, and that might be an encouraging sign for fans. “Certainly it’s good that his gait looks reassuring. He doesn’t look like he’s limping,” Sutterer says. He concludes the video with a quick overview of the hamstring muscles—the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris—and how they work. The latter two form a conjoined tendon, while the semimembranosus is more on its own to the outside of the leg.
When a hamstring injury occurs, the muscles usually just tear, or the tendons rupture and pull down away from the bone, Sutterer says. But that’s still a very basic overview, and there are far more variables, of course, that can play into the severity of a given injury.
Given that, there’s no way to predict with any degree of accuracy just yet whether McCaffrey will need surgery or just some extra downtime to heal.
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