Adam Schefter dropped a bomb on us Thursday afternoon when he announced Bengals superstar wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase would miss 4-6 weeks with a hip injury. Initially thought to land on the IR, Chase will not, as Cincinnati hopes he can return in less than 4-6 weeks. But what exactly is Ja’Marr Chase’s hip injury? Let’s take a look.
Hip Flexor Muscles
Chase entered week 7 with a questionable tag due to a hip flexor injury. There are multiple hip flexor muscles. The strongest and most powerful are the iliopsoas and the rectus femoris. Either of these could theoretically become strained.
The iliopsoas (shown below) is two muscles (psoas major, iliacus) and is named due to how they merge to attach as one on the femur. It is a powerful hip flexor (brings the thigh up to the chest). This muscle is highly involved in running and would become injured if a player attempts to swing the leg forward while a defender holds it back.
The rectus femoris (shown below) is both a hip flexor and a knee extensor and is part of the quad muscle group. Injury to the rectus femoris can occur similarly to how the iliopsoas can become injured. With the rectus femoris being a two-joint muscle (functions at both the hip and knee), it is more prone to tightness and injury. A unique component of this muscle is that it has attachments to the hip labrum. Additionally, the rectus femoris attaches to a part of the hip called the Anterior Inferior Iliac Spine (AIIS). This is a bump on the front of the hip. In some instances, the rectus femoris muscle can cause an avulsion fracture at the AIIS. This means the muscle contracts so hard that it pulls part of the bone off the rest of the bone, creating a fracture.
What We Know About Ja’Marr Chase’s Hip Injury
Team medical reports are often vague and do not provide the whole picture of a player’s injury. We know that Chase is dealing with a hip flexor injury, a labrum injury, and a hairline fracture.
As I discussed above, the rectus femoris muscle attaches to the hip labrum. This makes it highly likely that the rectus femoris is the muscle involved in Ja’Marr Chase’s hip injury. The sound of “torn labrum” likely causes many fans’ hearts to skip a beat. Fear not, as this injury is often managed conservatively. Athletes can often manage a labrum tear with rehab, at least for the remainder of the current season. The labrums job is to create stability of the femur bone in the hip socket. This is lost to some degree when the labrum is compromised. However, several small muscles within the hip, collectively called the “hip rotators,” can help create stability.
Chase will be training these hip rotator muscles as he rehabs this injury. With proper rehab that includes strength, muscle activation, reactivity drills, single leg balance on unstable surfaces, and other exercises, these muscles may compensate for the torn labrum. Depending on the tear size, he may elect to undergo surgery at some point, but hopefully, this will not be until the offseason.
Reports do not reveal the site of the hairline fracture, but it is possible that this could be secondary to avulsion from the rectus femoris muscle. Regardless of fracture location, bone takes 4-6 weeks to heal. This adds a new element of challenge to his rehab. Depending on the location of his fracture, Chase may be non-weight bearing for a period of time to allow the fracture to heal. If that is the case, some of the exercises listed above to address the labrum injury will be delayed. It is, however, possible that he is clear for full weight-bearing. In the case of full weight-bearing, he will be less limited in what he can do for rehab. Either way, he is likely not currently running, cutting, or jumping. This will lead to a decline in strength, speed, and conditioning.
Ja’Marr Chase Hip Injury Outlook
There is no doubt Chase will return to his elite status; the question is how soon? If his injury was only hip flexor muscle and labrum, he could be back very quickly. Because of the fracture, it is a stretch that Chase will return to the field in less than six weeks. He will have some decline in conditioning and athleticism when he returns, but he is so explosive that a decline in performance may not even be noticeable.
Optimistically, if he can return in 4 weeks, that would be week 12. If he returns in 6 weeks, that would be week 14. Week 12 would give fantasy managers two weeks of Chase before playoffs start. Week 14 would be the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Fantasy players must look at the current situation of their team and decide if they can afford to wait until the playoffs for Chase to return. If you need to win now to make the playoffs, you HAVE TO trade him. On the other hand, if your team is in great shape and a lock for the playoffs, you may consider trading for him.