Steelers doctor, trainer enjoy breakthrough with hamstring injury study
NFL teams for the first time can forecast precisely when players with often-debilitating hamstring injuries will return, the result of a study headed by Steelers orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jim Bradley and head athletic trainer John Norwig.
Bradley and Norwig also are convinced that injecting platelet-rich plasma — enriched blood that stimulates soft-tissue healing — not only gets players with injured hamstrings on the field as much as a week faster but also might prevent future hamstring tears.
Hamstring injuries are among the NFL's most problematic because teams often didn't know for days, or sometimes weeks, when key players will return, thus delaying personnel decisions.
Former Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was among those bothered in recent seasons by multiple hamstring injuries.
“They change from being a Porsche to being a pickup truck real fast,” Bradley said Wednesday. “If they have a hamstring (injury), they're not the same player.”
Working with former Philadelphia Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, a one-time Steelers trainer now with the Kansas City Chiefs, Bradley and Norwig reviewed 57 MRIs from 43 injured players to develop a chart that accurately can predict a player's return date.
“The problem was we were getting MRIs, but we didn't have any classification system to tell us if this is going to be a 21-day injury or if this is going to be a less than seven-day injury,” Bradley said.
Now, Bradley said, “We can give the coaching staff, Kevin Colbert, a good idea of whether it's a short-term return, a medium return or a long-term return, and we couldn't do that before. We were just guessing.”
A Steelers-only study by Bradley and Norwig determined that injecting plasma might be the most effective tool yet to shortening a player's layoff following a hamstring injury.
“The important thing is we had no (hamstring) re-tears (following the injections),” Bradley said. “Normally we have two to four re-tears of the hamstring in the exact spot per season. After (the injection), we had zero.
“And the No. 1 risk factor to having a hamstring tear is having a prior hamstring tear.”
The study might help the Steelers decide whether to sign players with a history of hamstring injuries.
“If a free agent comes in, we will get MRIs if they've had recurring hamstring strains to make sure they're not scarred,” Bradley said. “If you get a guy who's a wide receiver or a defensive back, really explosive, we will scan his legs to make sure he doesn't have pockets of scars sitting on his hamstring because the risk of having a repeat hamstring strain goes up considerably (if he does).”
The study's results are to be published in multiple medical journals.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ fourth-round pick Grant relies on smarts to get job done
- Steelers are banking on linebackers to improve strength of defense
- Kaboly: Steelers fill biggest needs by drafting defensive players
- Steelers get their corner with Mississippi’s Golson
- Penn State tight end James, a South Allegheny grad, goes to Steelers in 5th round
- Steelers draft WR from Auburn in 3rd round
- Steelers notebook: Harrison will play fewer snaps this season
- Steeler draft analysis: There’s no excuse for no 1st-round cornerback
- Steelers take Kentucky OLB Dupree with 1st-round pick in draft
- Steelers focus on defense on final day of NFL Draft
- West Virginia WR White selected by Bears