When Jon Gruden said wideout Amari Cooper had a hamstring “twinge,” he, nor anyone else, truly had major concerns. It’s early in OTAs and the speedy route runner hasn’t missed any time, but hamstring injuries could indicate more of an issue.
Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden told the media at the team’s first day of OTAs that star wide receiver Amari Cooper was kept out of the final portion of the first team session due to a hamstring twinge. While Gruden’s candidness is extremely refreshing given former coach Jack Del Rio divulged little about injuries, the fact Cooper is injured should cause some concern.
A hamstring twinge on the surface is not something many fans are going to worry about in May. But there are many factors that can contribute to a hamstring injury lingering far longer than anticipated. Managing hamstring injuries is a crucial component of any team’s medical and conditioning departments. Depending on the severity and location of the injury, a time frame for full recovery can vary anywhere from one to two weeks, to three months.
One of the biggest factors in the prevention of hamstring injuries, in particular, is finding the right balance between muscle mass (size) and flexibility. What can happen in some athletes is that they bulk up too much, and this reduces their muscle flexibility. So when they run, the muscle is unable to achieve the necessary flexibility required, and it strains (twinges). Such a situation has developed in my own hometown of Adelaide, Australia, in the Australian Football League. Yes, it’s not the NFL but bare with this Doctor of Chiropractic for just a few minutes.
In 2016 and 2017, the Adelaide had one of the best injury records in the AFL. Seeking an edge on other teams, Adelaide tweaked its strength and conditioning program to be far more focused on resistance (weight) training.
This subsequent tweaking of its program has led to more than a quarter of its 40-plus playing roster having developed a hamstring injury during the season (which is only nine weeks long), not to mention a variety of other soft tissue injuries, including gluteal and groin muscle strains. A few weeks ago, the Club made a determination that they would need to review their strength and conditioning program as the season moves forward to reduce the likelihood of further injuries. However, this is very much a moot point, because a player’s body composition requires months to change. Any change at this point would be minor and only to act as damage control.
In American football, it is clearly evident that over the past 18 months Cooper has bulked up and been hitting the weight room. For both his and the Raiders’ sake, let’s hope ‘his latest injury isn’t a sign that he’s bulked up ‘too much for his body. Cooper’s availability to the media after practice, and the fact he was not observed with ice on his hamstring, is a significant positive. But such an injury should bring trepidation.
After all, the last thing the Raiders need is for their top young wideout to be hindered throughout a campaign that hasn’t even entered training camp.