Wesley Sneijder, Inter’s creative engine was hurt in the Atalanta match and was unable to complete the match. Tests later showed a rectus femoris (RF) strain of the left leg. He is currently undergoing therapy to stretch the muscle out.
The rectus femoris is part of the quadriceps group of muscles in the front of the thigh that helps extend the knee. However, in contrast to the other quadriceps, the RF is a two joint muscle, which also helps in flexing the hip. It also stabilizes the pelvis on weight bearing.
Common causes of injury include when a strong decelerating force is applied at the same time the RF is in maximal contraction, for e.g., such as when two players kick the ball at the same time. Injuries also occur in the acceleration phase of such activities like the sprinting, explosive jumping like the long jump, or kicking. Because it is a two joint muscle and the most superficial of the quadriceps, it is also the most prone to injuries.
Depending on the severity, the injuries are graded in three categories. Grade 1 are mild strains with local tenderness and muscle spasm. Pain is present on hip flexion and knee extension. Grade 2 have more significant symptoms. Grade 3 are classified as tears with a “bunching” of the muscle on contraction and an obvious palpable defect in its anatomy.
Sneijder is probably undergoing a lot of ice therapy accompanied by gradual passive stretching of the RF. As opposed to hamstring rehabilitation which works better with a more aggressive regime, athletes with RF injuries typically go through a more gradual recovery process.
Running is encouraged only when RF function comes back to normal after pain and swelling subside. Initially, the athlete runs short distances at sub-maximal speeds. Enough time is taken off after such activities to rest the muscle. Once he is sprinting at top speeds, only then are the individual elements of skill training like kicking introduced.
Sneijder might be out for a while if this indeed is as serious as it looks and if his rehabilitation proceeds through the normal course of progression. The Dutch will also be worried about a premature return as a re-aggravation of the injury could throw his World Cup participation in jeopardy.
Sneijder’s absence might be just what Barca need because without his clever link up with strikers like Milito and Eto’o, this is the Inter of old. Then again, this is Mourinho who has shown time and time again, he is never short of answers. Goran Pandev as the makeshift playmaker. Ten men behind the ball and a counterattack or two. Remember Chelsea kept Barca at bay in their first leg at the Camp Nou last year. This is not mission impossible.