Dr. Flynn: Best-case scenario for Hightower not great (Update: out for season)

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(Dan Powers/USA TODAY Sports)

UPDATE: Dont'a Hightower has a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the rest of the season, according to NFL Network.


Just as the Patriots’ defense finally seemed to be jelling, a major part may be out for an extended time. On Sunday night, Dont’a Hightower came up clutching his right arm after this attempted tackle play.

He remained on the field for one more play, but his right arm was visibly impaired. Now, we are hearing reports from those around the team that this may be an extended absence.

In the video, Hightower is seen extending his right arm and shoulder to make a tackle. As he does this, the runner forces the arm backward.

Worst-case scenario

When I see an athlete injured in this position, a couple of things come to mind. The first, and most concerning, is a pectoralis tear. The “pec” muscles are located on the front of the chest wall and attach to the upper humerus (arm bone). They are the muscles that you use for bench press (and blocking, and tackling). In the video, Hightower’s pec muscle is fully stretched as it takes on the load of the approaching runner. When the muscle is expected to contract forcefully as it is fully extended that is called an “eccentric load.” An eccentric injury like Hightower’s could have torn the pec muscle. A pec rupture would end the linebacker’s season.

Best-case scenario