Hamstring Injuries, second most common injury in the NFL

Dr Sullivan explains sports injuries

Hamstring injuries are common in athletes who have to accelerate, decelerate rapidly or just do a lot of running. The hamstrings are a group of muscles that run down the back of the leg from the pelvis to the posterior tibia and fibula. They are responsible for flexing the knee.

The 3 muscles that make up the hamstring group from inner leg to outer leg are the semimembranosus and semitendinosus which attach to the inner lower leg along the tibia after passing thru the knee and the biceps femoris which attaches to the outer fibula.

Hamstring injuries are characterized by sudden shooting pains in the back of the leg. Generally the pain makes straightening the leg fully impossible. In other words, the leg is unable to extend without pain.  Hamstring injuries are graded according to severity and associated symptoms.

With Leonard Fournette dealing with a hamstring injury, reading below may change fans’ opinion on how fast to get him back out there.

Mild (Grade 1) Injury

  • Stiffness, tightness and mild tenderness to palpation along muscle bundles in back of thigh
  • No noticeable swelling at rest and only minimal
  • Heel is raised by flexing the knee
  • Gait is normal without deficit in range of motion.
  • Mild discomfort only while walking

Moderate (Grade 2) Injury

  • Gait noticeably affected.  Limp when trying to ambulate
  • Tightness with significant twinges upon flexing the knee
  • Palpable muscle tightness in back of thigh
  • Range of motion is limited and marked pain when flexing the knee
  • Pain generally relieved or tolerable when no weight on affected leg

Severe (Grade 3) Injury

  • Posterior thigh swelling and bruising which is markedly tender even to light touch.  Occasionally hematoma develops which forms firm lumpy texture to posterior thigh.  This is related to nature of the deep bruising associated with this degree of injury.
  • Significant pain at rest which becomes markedly more severe with any ambulation
  • Ambulation is difficult without assistance either through another person or device

Recovery and Reinjury

Hamstring injuries are the 2nd most common injury in the NFL each season. Each team experiences an average of 6-7 injuries each season and reinjury occurs more often than initial injury.  In an MRI study done in 2014, despite being pain-free after an average of 15 days, evidence of sustained injury still was evident on MRIs done at the 6 week post injury point in over 50% of the athletes examined.

What exactly does this mean?  If the injury is still evident at 6 weeks on the MRI, it means that full healing has not taken place and the risk for reinjury is still significant.  In addition, Grade 2 and 3 injuries involve actual tears of the muscle which results in the formation of scar tissue that markedly changes the consistency and function of the originally injured muscle as well as interferes with the function and use of the muscles around the injured ones.

A number of treatment options have been tried to speed the recovery process including deep ultrasound therapy, cryotherapy, and platelet rich plasma. Results have been mixed and currently no one treatment option other than adequate healing time has been shown to decrease the rate of reinjury.

Another interesting study has found that the injuries that have the longest time to heal are the ones classified as low stretch injuries. These occur during stretching type exercises and activities and result from extensive stretching of the muscles.  While they don’t appear as bad initially, they actually cause more extensive deep injury to the muscles and the risk for reinjury is almost 3x that of injuries that occur during active movement like high-speed running.

Professional sports is a business, and getting athletes back on the field quickly is important, however, if the risk of reinjury is so great is that really the best thing in the long run?  Until a way to limit and treat hamstring injuries is found, adequate healing time is imperative for the athlete’s health and long-term playing future. These findings are one of the reasons more and more athletes with significant hamstring injuries find themselves on injured reserve much faster than they previously did.

Over/Under defense, learn more – Football 201

This article goes further in depth about over/under defense then a previous  one vs two gap defense. Even though that article is a 101, it covers more about gaps.

Back in the day, over/under defense was the old 4-3 front. If the front was over, the 3 Tech would line up to the Y. If it was an under defense, the 3 Tech was lined up away from the Y.

Some Okie (traditional 3-4) fronts have turned into Okie Over and Okie Under to accommodate the 1 gap pressure schemes. This means the N is now shading to and from the TE.

This defense makes the count in pass protection tricky. When a QB sees a 4-3 front, it’s really easy to count how many guys are on each side of the ball, but also helps the OL with declaring the MLB (MIKE). This helps the OL start to sort out who’s got who.

Same thing in the run game. However, when a defense lines up odd, the QB has to wonder, “are they now in a 1 gap or are they gonna play it straight up and 2 gap us?” The running back is looking at this, too. Experienced QB’s will help teach their backs how to read this.

The goal of over/under defense it to make the accounting process for the QB difficult on 2 levels.

Okie 4 defense formation

1) he can’t accurately count how many guys are on each side of the ball and
2) there can be confusion between the C and QB on who the Mike is, leading to protection miscommunications between the OL and RB.
Okie Under

Okie Under can put new QB’s out of their depth in trying to read what these defenses are doing.

The best team to use the Okie Under to perfection was Denver’s defense in 2015. They rarely blitzed, it was all 3 and 4 man rushes, but it was the speed of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller that didn’t give QB’s time to breathe, nor did OL’s know who to block.Okie Over defense formation
The same odd man formation works in a 4-3, as well. This is why rookie O-Lines, especially with new tackles and slow processing QB’s can get slammed. To counter this, I think is why we’re seeing more RPO’s.
4-3 defense (under)
Jacksonville will be seeing 4-3 defenses this season who will shade their N away from the TE like above. The issue Blake Bortles and Nate Hackett face this season is the starting TE is new.

They practice against a 4-3, so 43 over/under defense won’t give them fits. Plus, this season the OL are a veteran bunch
4-3 Over defense formation
Where’s the pressure coming from above? Will it be a one or two gap and who is Mike? While the 4-3 Over looks like an easy read, it isn’t because any of the three backs can be Mike. A QB needs experience to know who is Mike, what look the defense is giving and also figuring out what the safeties are actually doing. This is why the longer they play, the better they get at the mental side of the position.

Scouting Quarterbacks: read what the NFL is looking at

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group. The first will be scouting quarterbacks. In the real report I used, there was pictures of the quarterback in various movements, with comments about each. In order to keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos of the QB the below, or the handwritten notes used.

What’s fascinating about about the two page report is how detailed it is. When scouting quarterbacks, not only do they put together these analysts, but visit games, watch film, analyze them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities.

They break down film, have them do whiteboard work, talk to coaches, etc. Choosing a quarterback isn’t usually some whim, it’s a long process based on reports like below. The actual one below is based on, had photos showing:

  • stride
  • hit & throw
  • weight transfer
  • low take-away
  • ball sails position
  • level throw
  • throwing plane
  • ball carry during drop & pocket movement (*compact/2 hands on ball)
  • frame throws: shoulders, hips, lead leg aligned w target
  • slightly flexed front leg
  • high extended over the top release
  • daylight in the grip+adequate hand size
  • compact lead arm
  • hip torque
  • accuracy on the move

There were lines often on the photos showing the above notations.

After the snap how was his:

  • pocket awareness
  • vision
  • locate 2nd WR
  • force into coverage, release quickness
  • arm strength
  • quick/compact vs elongated
  • smooth fluid vs jerky
  • anticipation
  • short stroke
  • change release point
  • technician in mechanics
  • accuracy, short & long
  • touch
  • grip
  • resets quickly
  • balance
  • throws on the run
  • pocket mobility
  • lateral pocket movement
  • weight transfer
  • stride (short =2″-6″)

There’s more that they look at pre-snap.

  • leadership
  • poise
  • judgement
  • defense recognition
  • pre-snap reads
  • primary/secondary WRs
  • blitz recognition
  • audibles
  • who call pro?
  • redirect protections
  • respect for the football

In the pocket:

  • feel for rush
  • pocket use
  • slide/step up
  • strength in pocket
  • make 1st rusher miss
  • temperament
  • squirrelly in the pocket

We’re not done yet on scouting quarterbacks. More items they look for:

  • catchable ball
  • make WR adjust
  • throw away from coverage
  • drive ball into tight coverage
  • hit WR in stride
  • trajectory
  • TOUCH: throwing angles
  • velocity
  • improvisation
  • finds passing lanes
  • trusts his arm
  • leadership-ability to command
  • voice inflection
  • knowledge of the game
  • game manager
  • clock management

Grades on these types of throws:

  • go
  • seam
  • shallow cross
  • dig
  • out
  • deep out
  • comeback
  • quick slant
  • bubble screen
  • check down

Here are the types of notes that can be made when scouting quarterback:

  • Touch, but power on his 8 cut through traffic. Elusive, quick, nice touch on the run. Eyes downfield on scramble. Power runner, looks for contact. Tough kid that’s quick. Very accurate on the run. Don’t know about pocket awareness. Gets to 2nd level well. Tough player. Needs to get stronger. Eyes downfield on scramble.
  • Steps up nicely in the pocket. Elusive. Big arm. Puts ball where only his guys can catch it. Gets away with some high school dare balls.
  • Bullet for arm. A little too reliant on arm strength. Throws off back foot sometimes. Confident. His highlights are based most off of 4 vert concepts. Quick feet. Can buy time on the move. Ball comes out high. Nice 3 ball. Stands tall and delivers strikes. Uses frame well. Drops ball well into coverage.
  • Long motion. Electric. Nice job looking off safeties. Would like to see more reads/routes, but system doesn’t seem to allow for it. Further evaluation needed. Athletic enough to play in both a pro and spread offense.

There you have it, what scouts look at, the type of items they look for and some notes they’ll make. Obviously, the bulleted items above will have numbers or notes and on their QB eval sheet will have many hand scribbled notes.

4-3 formation, Cover 2 and other Defensive terms: Football 101

Jacksonville uses what is called a 4-3 formation. It employs four guys on the line called, Defensive Linemen, and four Linebackers. What formation a team uses, is determined by the personnel. In order for the tougher 3-4 to work, it needs a really good Nose Tackle and four superb linebackers. Most teams don’t have both.

Below is a base 4-3 Defense (under) in a Cover 2. This is a standard formation, for a standard play, usually on downs one and two against an average team. The defensive backs are in a Cover 2 (2 cornerbacks and 2 safeties).

To avoid saying generally and usually fifty times throughout the piece, please assume almost everything is a ‘usually’. This is about covering the Basics. Football 101. Just know that defenses use many formations that are based on down, distance and offensive formations, etc.

Going to put current names for positions to give you an idea of who plays where and why.

In case you were wondering, football diagrams always have the defense on top, so while it looks like the L should be R and vice versa, the players are facing the offenses; therefore, the diagram is correct.

Defensive Linemen (4-3)

*Both Ngakoue and Campbell do switch sides dependent on different factors*

The Right Defensive End is currently Yannick Ngakoue. DE’s are big guys, but also agile because the best ones can get to the QB and hit him, but also stop running backs.

Left Defensive End That’s Calais Campbell. Great ends like Campbell, can read the offense and know it’s a pass play and bull doze his way through the line to sack or break up the pass. He is a rare breed because he’s huge, bigger than most DE’s, but has the quickness of a smaller guy.

In a 4-3, ends are tasked with stopping the pass and harassing the QB. In a 3-4, the outside linebackers are predominately who do that because the ends (or at least one of them) is focused on stopping the run.

Defensive tackles (4-3)

There are two types: Nose Tackles and Tackles. They line up side by side.

Nose Tackle – Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones. NT’s are tasked with lining up based on the center.  NT’s are usually the biggest mamajamma of the starters. NT need long arms and superhuman strength, they set the tone, keep teams from running up the middle and force running backs to the edge. The Jags want teams to abandon the run and pass the ball because they have the best secondary on the planet.

In addition, forcing the run to the edge gives more time for the defenders on that side to get there to make a tackle. They’re also easier to see. When you have eight HUGE bodies on the LOS, a small RB can be tough to spot.

Defensive Tackle. Malik Jackson He takes on a Guard along with either a offensive tackle or the center depending on the play. The NT & DT work together to stop the run. Teams can and do swap out the NT for two DT depending on the play. In another article, I talk about techniques and that determines how these guys line up.

Linebackers

In a 4-3 defense, you have 3 LB’s, a Weak (Will), Middle (Mike) and Strong (Sam). LB’s can and do line up wherever they want depending on the play. For Jax’s base defense, I set it up on the offense in a 11 formation (1 RB, 1 TE). Each have certain roles: stop whatever type of body comes their way. Clog up the middle of the field, discouraging passes. Cover any passes that are to the middle of the field. In plays to the corners, back them up. Sack the quarterback.

Inside Linebackers (Will) and Inside Linebacker (Mike)

The Will  (Telvin Smith Sr. ) is usually smaller and quicker than the Mike and has better cover skills. He’s often going to get tasked to watch the slot, if there is one, but their job is to tackle any one with the ball in their hands.

Mike (Myles Jack wasn’t down) is the usually the run stopper and power tackler. DC’s (defensive coordinators) can use different skill sets to become a match-up nightmare. It all starts with the Fearsome Foursome (DL). Those men need to stuff/slow down the rush because if the Will is the ‘cover guy’, he’s not going to be great at stopping the run by himself.

*a MLB is referred to as Mike, but it is not the same as being the MIKE (read here for more info)*

Outside Linebacker (Sam), in a 3-4 there’s also a 4th guy, I call him Elephant, he’s their premier edge rusher. Leon Jacobs If you look below, you’ll see there is a TE in my typical offense. That is the strong side because there are more players on that side of the ball. If an offense uses two wide receivers on each side of the ball, the defense decides which side is more likely to be the “play” side and puts the Sam there.

Sams have two jobs: rush the QB and stop the outside runner. They typically are the LB that is the quickest with the best agility to bend under a reaching OT/TE.

Defensive Backs

The defensive players who cover the back field are called; defensive backs. They are the secondary line of defense, hence they’re also referred to as the secondary. DB’s are broken down into two types: corners and safeties. Cornerbacks tend to cover the corners of the field, the edges. Safeties cover the back and linebackers, the middle section.

Right Cornerback. A.J. Bouye. Jacksonville is blessed to have two CB’s so gifted. Shutdown corners rarely get the accolades they deserve. Players who make interceptions get the splashy news, but what’s overlooked is in order for an interception to happen, the ball has to be thrown to the player the corner is covering. The unsung hero is the guy who’s sticky glue taking away an option for the QB.

Left Cornerback is currently Jalen Ramsey The left CB lines up across from the Z WR. The Z is the quickest and fastest receiver and since he lines up closest to the QB and easiest to see, he gets a lot of action. This means his CB must be as quick and shifty.

In man coverage, if an opponent moves its WR1 or 2 to the other side, a CB will move with them. In zone coverage, he stays put and covers whomever comes into his area. A CB’s job is to not let the WR he is ‘covering’, to catch the ball, if he does, stop him quickly.

CB’s are fast, agile and must be scholars of the game. They’re in a battle of wits against the WR, and the QB. They anticipate what the play is, where the QB is going to throw the ball, stick with the WR who’s facing forward while he’s facing backward and within very tight rules of “no’s’. If you’d like t read more about corners, read here on standard, hard and soft press.

If plays get past the LB’s and the CB’s (yikes), the Safeties are there for mop duty. There are two kinds and they line up with the Strong Safety on the left and the Free Safety on the right.

As stated above, when the guys in front of them mess up, it’s up to these safety nets to keep the play out of the End Zone. The Strong Safety is the guy made to stop the run. He’s the bouncer. He’s got his eyes on the rusher and will move up to get him. Barry Church is our thumper.

SS play closer to the line. Occasionally they know a play is a pass and they will full on rush the passer. The types of attacks on the QB will be covered on another day as there are different ways. Since he’s bigger, he’s often teamed up with a LB to take on a receiving TE.

The Free Safety (Tashaun Gipson Sr.) plays further back, he is tasked with the deeper pass, either moving quickly to stop the WR who caught the ball already or break one up. He’s also the guy who reads the play so well, he calls out to his fellow DB’s what’s what.

While each safety has an expertise, stopping the run or coverage for a pass, both must be great tacklers. While the SS may be better at it, the FS is no slump. And while the FS has better hands and cover skills, the SS still must be a ball hawk, too.
Hope this was informative. Ask any questions below.