Written by Tom Christ, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs is widely regarded as the best weekend of football. Eight teams, four games, with the highest of stakes. Daily fantasy and prop betting will be widely popular this weekend, and it is important to understand how injuries may impact players’ production. The Divisional Round Injury Report is here to get you caught up on what to expect from an injury standpoint!
Divisional Round Injury Report: Quarterbacks
Hurts has been taken off the injury report ahead of the divisional matchup against the Giants. Hurts, who had been dealing with a sternoclavicular joint injury since week 15, should be just about 100%. I discuss my optimism in the video below. Essentially, a month is enough time for this injury to heal properly. The concern becomes the development of stiffness in the SC joint that would impact the shoulder’s range of motion during throwing. Any restriction in SC joint motion would directly limit throwing power by reducing the arc of motion of the throw.
Fortunately, in my clinical experience, the SC joint is easy to restore motion with simple manual techniques and exercise. I expect the Eagles let Hurts loose this week, allowing him to throw and run as he did all season before the injury. I do not see this injury impacting his performance at all.
This one is the exact same report as last week. Trevor Lawrence has been dealing with a left big toe injury for several weeks. This has not forced him to miss any time, and he is playing as good football as he ever has (the first half of last week aside). Since it is his left big toe, this does not impact his throwing motion. If it were his right big toe, it would. The power from a throw starts from the ground up, meaning the push-off from the back foot is vital for power generation. Luckily, it’s Lawrences’ left toe. He will be 100% for Saturday’s game.
Divisional Round Injury Report: Running Backs
Edwards-Helaire has been out since week 11 with a high ankle sprain. Eight weeks is the high end of the spectrum of time missed for running backs after a high ankle sprain. NFL RBs average missing 2.3 games. His length of absence tells us this was a more severe injury. That said, eight weeks is often plenty to fully recover from this injury.
The challenge with a high ankle sprain is how it influences running mechanics. The tibia and fibula bones are held snuggly together in a normal functioning ankle via various ligaments. These two bones sit on top of the talus bone of the foot to make the ankle joint. When functioning normally, this snug relationship allows the foot and ankle to push off the ground with great force to run and cut. When the ligaments are injured, the tibia and fibula bones separate from one another, creating “instability.” This instability does not allow the foot and ankle to generate as much force when planting to cut, directly impacting athletic performance.
Fortunately, eight weeks is often long enough for the ligaments to heal and the tibia and fibula bones to reposition, again creating proper stability. Historically, we don’t see any drop-off in running back fantasy production after this injury. The concern would be for future injury. Future injury is not entirely predictable, but we know that certain mechanical factors can predispose one to injury. One common factor that can predispose to injury is a stiff ankle. Following a significant ankle injury, often the ankle never fully regains range of motion. The ankle is one of our main shock absorbers; without full range of motion, its shock-absorbing capability is diminished. CEH was undoubtedly working on a range of motion while rehabbing; sometimes, athletes can fully regain motion. Still, clinically I constantly see people with knee, hip, back, and even shoulder injuries that are related to a prior ankle injury.
Divisional Round Injury Report: Wide Receivers
Hardman has been out since week 9, dealing with an abdominal and pelvis injury. This is a classic sports hernia, which is a terrible name for the injury because it’s not actually a hernia. Hardman’s injury was originally listed as an abdominal injury but has since been described as a pelvis injury. A sports hernia is an injury to the abdominal muscles or groin muscles. Each of these muscle groups attaches to the pelvis, which is why they very often are injured together with a sports hernia.
I described this type of injury in great detail using the classic beer can analogy a few weeks ago when explaining Lane Johnson’s injury. This can be seen below.
Reports have stated that Hardman has suffered a setback while rehabbing. This happens ALL THE TIME with these injuries. The abdomen and groin muscles are impossible to offload, making it hard to rest and allow proper healing. These muscle groups are also highly involved with every athletic maneuver, making it very easy to re-injure. Often these athletes need surgery, which is very successful but would put Hardman out for the rest of the season.
Kansas City is likely hoping they can get a few big plays from Hardman a game the rest of the season, recognizing that they will not have him at full strength until next year.
Hodgins is dealing with an ankle injury and posted a picture of the inside of his ankle looking very bruised. With the injury on the inside of his ankle, he is probably dealing with a medial ankle sprain, which is an injury to the deltoid ligament.
A medial ankle sprain would actually be more beneficial than a lateral ankle sprain because the medial portion of the foot and ankle is less relied on for cutting. Pain and swelling, however, can impact muscle function. Hodgins played great in the first round of the playoffs, so we know he can play through this injury, but I would not be surprised if this slows him down this week.
Jennings is dealing with what sounds like a minor ankle sprain. Ankle sprains have a range of how they impact players. Often times the minor ones have little to no impact, whereas the more severe sprains cause missed time and reduction in performance when they return and can predispose to future injuries. A moderate-severe ankle sprain leads to loss of ligament integrity, therefore loss of ankle stability, and impacts proprioception; if you have been following my writings all season, you know how important proprioception is (see discussion on Lamar Jackson from a previous post). It does not sound like Jennings’s injury is anywhere near severe enough to cause these issues. Jennings, however, is not exactly an attractive DFS play as the 5th receiving option in this offense.
Divisional Round Injury Report: Tight Ends
None to report