Injuries Explained: Volume ll: TJ Watt

September 21, 2022

The NFL is back which unfortunately means so are injuries.  During opening day on September 11th,Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro outside linebacker / edge T.J. Watt suffered a potentially season-ending torn left pectoral muscle when attempting to tackle Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback JoeBurrow.

What is the diagnostic process for a torn muscle?


The gold standard for diagnosing a torn muscle is an MRI - allowing for a full comprehensive view of the muscle belly, tendon, and joints surrounding.  



How important are the Pec muscles for a linebacker?


The“pec” muscle group is made up of the pectoralis major and minor.  The pec major’s job is to flex the arm, and adduct the arm (bringing the arm across the chest).  Pec minor is important for stabilization and appropriate motion of scapula (aka the shoulder blade).


When considering the job of an edge/OLB, the pec is a highly important muscle.  An edge rusher needs to be able to engage the other player and get to the outside, he needs to be able to extend the arm and push off which is primarily driven by the biceps and pec major.  Alongside that, a linebacker needs to be able to achieve a 3-point stance stabilized by the feet and one hand on the


What is the timeframe for T.J.?


The size and severity of the tear dictates the course of recovery and timeframe for return to play for the edge rusher.  IfWatt opts for surgery it will be ~8 weeks before he is able to use his left arm, following that he will be in physical therapy for anywhere up to 6 months focusing on building strength, maintaining motion, and finally facilitating return to play.  


For the conservative management (i.e. avoiding surgery), Watt could be expected to be out 6-8 weeks depending on pain levels and reported symptoms.  The first phase is the protection phase to decrease pain levels.  Following that,T.J. will go through a progressive strengthening program and a course of PT to facilitate return to play, much like a post operative protocol.  


Link to injury play: