BYU is partnering with three other universities in a $4 million research project funded by the NFL to research hamstring injuries. They will research how to prevent them and how to help athletes get back in the game quicker.
The NFL has previously invested in concussion research, but this is the first non-concussion injury research project the NFL is investing in, and BYU will get to play a critical role.
“The NFL is actively trying to do things to make the game safer,” said Brett Mortensen, BYU Athletics coordinator of physical therapy and rehabilitation. He shared that hamstring injuries are the most common soft tissue injury in the NFL, often leaving athletes unable to play for a long period of time.
Even after recovery, they are more likely to injure their hamstring again.
BYU football safety and linebacker Chaz Ah You recently injured his hamstring. “I tore the tendon off the bone,” he said
He was running and it just popped. But when they gave him the diagnosis, “they didn’t really give me an explanation,” he said.
This hamstring project combines research like never before.
The study will analyze two specific groups: people who have previously had hamstring injuries and people who have never had a hamstring injury, Mortensen said.
They will look at how the athletes move, the biomechanics of their body and perform MRIs to analyze the body makeup and the healing of the muscles post injury .
“We are going to look at all of those and try to come up with a criteria that let’s us predict just who’s at higher risk and at what point in the rehab process once they’re injured and at what point they are at their safest to return,” Mortensen said.
BYU football players will have the option to participate but “because it is something that so frequently affects athletes, my guess is that most of them will decide that they want to be involved,” he said.
The scans and data collection will begin in spring and summer training and continue through the next three years.
Mortensen hopes that with the data collected they can know “why our guys are missing games, why our guys are hurt, why they can’t do what they’re training all year to do. We would see a decrease in the frequency and severity of hamstring injuries,” he said.
Ah You’s said he is excited to see the results of the study and thinks that it will influence “the way that we train, the way that we workout in our off seasons, I think that it will change the way that we approach taking care of our bodies as far as recovery,”
But this study isn’t just going to help football players.
“We are going to be able to help shape how other institutions and other sports address one of the most common injuries in athletics,” Mortensen said.
While this research is going to change the game, Mortensen wants to encourage athletes that while they need to push themselves, “they also have to listen to their bodies.”
Between the four universities participating and after three years of study, they will have over 1,500 athlete years of research, helping them to have game-changing new information.