What a feel good story. Elite college wide receiver breaks neck and comes back the following year to have an amazing season and leads his Clemson Tiger team to a national championship title. He gets drafted high in the first round of the NFL draft and is slotted to become QB Phillip Rivers next big target. Just when things couldn't look brighter, we find out he might be out with a herniated disc. Possibly for the whole season. Before even playing his first game as a professional football player. The Chargers have a history of drafting players that get injured in training camp before they play their first game. So is this just the Chargers rookie curse or perhaps through his long journey through recovery he never actually fully recovered?
A few things I was able to glean from some home-made and NFL Combine videos.
Lateral abdominal weakness - when he goes shirtless, you can see a rib flare, more noticeably on the left, which means less stability in the spine. He has a strong erectus abdominus muscle (read: 6-pack) but that only stabilizes the spine in one plane of movement and is more of a mover than a stabilizing muscle of the spine.
Spinal tightness - Watching him joke around and dance in a self made video, one can see limited ability to wideband left and heavily favors his right. This can affect his catching ability say when he's backing up a cornerback for a catch. If the ball is thrown to the left of him, he will have to compensate with movement somewhere else to reach for the ball which can be a recipe for injury.
Upper body strength differential - at the NFL combine when he was bench pressing, you can see a marked difference with more weakness on his right. While this is normal since that he is left-hand dominant, wide receivers need more balanced strength to maneuver against defensive players. Having that weakness on the right can be a hindrance to performance and cause him to compensate with other muscles such as his stronger Latissimus Dorsi on the right. Anytime you are over using certain muscles and underutilizing others, this puts undue pressure on the spine as well as the shoulder girdle.
At the end of the day: with the imbalance in spinal range of motion and shoulder girdle strength, back problems and possibly right shoulder problems seem to be in his future unless he can make some small adjustments.
The Injury Analyst is a blog dedicated to not only explaining injuries that have occurred, but predicting and highlighting future injury risks for professional athletes. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: I have not seen the subject of this article personally in clinic, rather all views and opinions of the author have been made based off of video footage of the athlete. This article is not meant as a diagnosis or a treatment plan.