The silence on social media has been deafening, and Pittsburgh Steelers fans were start to whisper about the dreaded Madden Curse. Ever since Antonio Brown was held out of practice last week, HC Mike Tomlin has described the player as being “day-to-day” but gave no indication as to what the injury was. Rumors on twitter hinted that the star WR was dealing with a quad strain. Brown was sent to Pittsburgh for further evaluation – presumably an MRI – and never returned to Latrobe. The team maintained that it wasn’t serious. It seemed odd, however, that the king of PR missed a media opportunity like the popular annual Friday Night Lights practice, even if he would be on the sidelines.
Well, AB has apparent;y been found hiding in Miami, doing a quick rehab with his chiropractor, Dr. Mike Wasilisin. Thanks to Alex (@aldt26) for letting me know that the answer could be found on the live “story” video on the IG account for Dr. Mike’s Move U program @moveu_official. Dr. Mike can be seen poolside with AB and a wide receiver coach Brandon:
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s train!”
“We’re gonna start training in the pool because you can’t hurt yourself in the pool unless you whack your head off the side or do something dumb. We’re gonna work oxygen, breath hold training, laps, warming up the shoulder, the whole body, safe way to train.”
“Down here in Miami, FL, working with Antonio Brown and helping him recover from a hip flexor injury so he’s ready to start tomorrow, back at training camp 100%.”
He and Brown also talked about the importance of hypoxic training/breathholding to help with recovery after long sprints so he can be explosive for the next play.
As always, let’s start with an anatomy lesson. Here’s a schematic of hip flexors:
The rectus femoris, one of the quadriceps muscles, is also considered a hip flexor muscle because it crosses the hip joint. The muscle’s name comes from the Latin “recta”, meaning straight, and “femoris” because it runs the length of the femur or thigh bone. Given the reports of both a quad strain and now hearing Dr. Mike call it a hip flexor injury, we can probably assume that AB’s injury involves the rectus femoris.
The rectus femoris attaches to the anterior superior iliac spine (the bony prominent part of the pelvis that you can feel on your side) and inserts on the tibia via the patellar tendon with the other quadriceps muscles. It is therefore involved in both knee and hip flexion. The rectus femoris works with the iliopsoas muscle to bring about hip flexion, especially if the knee is already flexed. It also works with the iliopsoas muscles for hip extension and works during the push-off and swing phases of a gait.
A strain of the rectus femoris occurs most commonly from a forceful movement like sprinting, jumping, or kicking and is common in football and soccer players. Symptoms include sudden sharp pain at the front of the hip or in the groin, swelling or bruising, and an inability to walk with a normal gait. As will all injuries involving muscle and tendon, the tear can be partial or complete.
The standard treatment for a hip flexor injury is RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Knowing AB and the way he attacks fitness and rehab, he wouldn’t just stay home in Pittsburgh waiting for his muscle soreness to get better. The biggest risk with hip flexor injuries is re-injury and/or progression to a more significant muscle tear in the hip or pelvis area, even leading to athletic pubalgia (the dreaded “sports hernia”).
What is the impact of a hip flexor injury for a wide receiver? It can diminish the burst and acceleration. Julio Jones sustained a right hip flexor injury last season. Fortunately, his team had a bye the following Sunday and he was able to return for their next game 2 weeks after his injury. He finished the season with 88 receptions for 1444 yards, so it didn’t seem to slow him down. Chargers WR Keenan Allen suffered the same injury in 2015, returning the following week to pull down 9 receptions for 89 yards.
So there you go. Call it a hip flexor injury or a quad strain, but it sounds like the good news that Tomlin was suggesting last week and Brown’s mysterious absence has finally been explained. AB is rehabbing in sunny Florida and hopefully he’ll be back at practice Tuesday. Either way, he was looking pretty spry hopping around the pool.