NFL Injury Report: Brian Urlacher’s Leg Injury

Each week, will analyze one NFL player’s injury.  Sports Medicine doctor, Dr. Mandy Huggins (Twitter:  @HugginsMD), will provide medical analysis of the injury.  Alicia Jessop will then break down some of the contract ramifications of the injury.

Dr. Mandy Huggins’ Medical Analysis

The media is already speculating about the leg injury sustained by Chicago LB Brian Urlacher on Sunday, reporting today that the team has already signed another linebacker. Apparently Urlacher sustained a right hamstring injury late in the game against the Seahawks, although this has yet to be confirmed.

Hamstring strains are usually classified as grade I (mild), grade II (moderate), or grade III (severe). The hamstring muscle group consists of three large muscles: biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. Strains most commonly occur in the biceps femoris, and the onset is usually sudden, for example, while sprinting. Age (Urlacher is 34), fatigue, and a history of previous hamstring injury increase one’s risk for another injury. After a hamstring injury, the athlete will complain of difficulty walking, localized pain (followed by swelling and maybe bruising), and decreased strength against resistance. Imaging is not required unless a complete tear (grade III) is suspected. However, ultrasound or MRI can be used to help determine the extent of the injury and predict length of recovery. Imaging in Urlacher’s case has not been reported. Treatment includes rest from competition, stretching, and soft tissue therapy followed by progressive strengthening and core stability work. Specifically, eccentric exercises (slow, controlled lengthening of the muscle) have been shown to decrease the risk of hamstring injuries. There is no set time table for return to sport, as all hamstring injuries are different. However, full range of motion, full strength, and optimal performance on functional testing must be demonstrated before return can be considered.

Alicia Jessop’s Contract Analysis

Urlacher is in the final year of his deal with the Chicago Bears, and as such, this injury arguably could not have come at a worse time.  However, the one upside of the timing of his injury is that it comes late in the season and he will have an entire off-season to heal, if need be.  The Bears’ defense has largely relied upon Urlacher’s talents in recent years, so he and his agent can use this, along with status updates on his recovery to negotiate a new contract with the Bears or other teams.  However, as with any player, injuries factor heavily into a team’s decision as to whether or not enter into a lengthy and lucrative deal.


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