New York Knicks forward Andrea Bargnani has yet to play this season after straining his right hamstring during training camp. He had reported progressed through rehab and appeared close to returning. However Bargnani will miss additional time after a MRI revealed a strained calf muscle sustained in Friday’s practice.
The injury is an unfortunate setback but not overly surprising. Both the hamstring and calf are actually muscle groups made up of multiple muscles. The beginning point of the calf complex is situated in close proximity to the insertion site of the hamstrings. Additionally both muscle groups work synergistically to bend the knee. Based on their location and co-dependence, it is easy to see how an injury or imbalance in either the calf or hamstring could directly alter and weaken the other.
To better understand this dynamic relationship, consider what sports medicine practitioners call the kinetic chain model. Each joint of the lower extremity is treated as a unit. When one joint, or link in the kinetic chain, is weakened, the entire chain is negatively affected. As a result other area of the leg become susceptible to injury as the body adjusts for the weak link. Though Bargnani’s injuries occurred at different times it is likely the hamstring injury disrupted the kinetic chain of his right leg and contributed to his current calf problem.
There have been multiple examples of players who have endured congruent hamstring and calf strains including Al Horford, Danny Granger, Devin Harris, and Tiago Splitter. A majority of these players also went on to have other issues including ankle and knee problems on the same extremity. As a result, the Knicks will want to tread carefully with Bargnani’s treatment to insure the former number one overall pick does not suffer a more significant injury. Unfortunately that means another extended absence for a player who has been sidelined for more games (53) than he’s played (42) since joining New York last year.