Expert Injury Analysis
By Stephania Bell
RotoWire Writer and Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
RotoWire Injury Page
Only one week into training camp, and already four members of the Unlucky Seven club have made their presence known. Recent injuries range from minor (out a few practices) to devastating (out for the season), while questions abound regarding the return of several key injured players from last year.
Knee Ligament Sprains
If you're a Falcons fan who was counting on Brian Finneran to provide some depth at receiver, the news this week was not good. Finneran was lost for the season to a torn ACL and cartilage damage. Surgery to repair the ligament and subsequent rehab will put Finneran's return at this time next year. Speaking of ACL injuries, there are quite a few athletes looking to make their return at or near the start of this season following knee reconstructions last year. Many of these players are performing well in practice and generating a lot of excitement about their "spectacular" recoveries (Braylon Edwards, Javon Walker). Although it is certainly encouraging to see them out on the field moving nimbly about, keep in mind that they are operating in very controlled situations with no real threat - and no contact. This is appropriate given the time frames since injury, but it bears repeating: Getting the football knee back takes game situations. This is especially the case for running backs and receivers who need to decelerate sharply, cut laterally, land awkwardly and withstand getting hit any which way. Deuce McAllister is having knee soreness and is not certain to play pre-season, which means Reggie Bush could see increased playing time early on. In the quarterback arena, the word on Daunte Culpepper and Carson Palmer is that both look good, and their teammates are projecting only positive reinforcement. These two obviously do not require the same mobility as Edwards, Walker or McAllister. The bigger tests will come later (such as willingness to stay in the pocket, maneuverability out of the pocket, and in Culpepper's case, willingness to drive forward with the body in a goal-line situation), and will provide us with a better position-specific assessment of their return-to-form potential.
There has been a run on hamstring strains early in camp - some minor, others perhaps more serious. Although there has not been much specific information released about these injuries, there are some clues as to how concerned we should be. Michael Vick walked off the field on his own power - a good sign - and is expected to return to practice soon. Steve Smith on the other hand had to be carted off - never a good sign - perhaps made worse by the fact that he has a history of hamstring strains on the left leg. Although recent reports suggest that this strain is minor, the concern with hamstring strains is that they can become chronic. Scar tissue in the muscle can lead to a decrease in flexibility. Chronic injury can mean decreased strength and power. Smith's athleticism is what makes him such a threat - a nagging hamstring injury could spell a problem for the Panthers. It is too early to state that this will be the case, but it is worth watching how Smith responds over the next few weeks. Others hampered by the hamstring include Santonio Holmes (another "tweak" on the same hamstring that he hurt in the spring), Thomas Jones (now out another week to 10 days), Mark Clayton (his left hamstring has two priors, is this third time the charm or the final strike?), among others.
Why so many hamstring strains this early in camp? There could be many factors. One likely reason is that no matter how hard players work out during the offseason, it is hard to duplicate the effort that is displayed during camp when jobs are at stake. Heat may take a toll on the soft tissue if the athlete is not extremely well hydrated. Insufficient warm-up can be a factor. Prior injury at or near the location of the strain may predispose a player to further injury. Mild strains should resolve within a couple weeks so keep an eye on pre-season participation for clues.
Not too many broken bones yet, but of significance is Tedy Bruschi's possible wrist fracture. Although the diagnosis is not yet definitive, a fracture of the scaphoid (one of the small wrist bones near the thumb) often requires insertion of a screw followed by immobilization to heal (minimum six weeks). The biggest concern for healing is preserving the very delicate blood supply to this bone. If however it turns out to be a sprain (overstretching of the ligaments around the bone), protecting the wrist for a couple weeks may be all that is necessary.
Safety Will Demps' elbow shocked Shockey this week and sent him to the ground hard. Three days later Shockey was still complaining of sensitivity to light, nausea and headache, all symptoms typical of the brain injury known as concussion. The good news is that Shockey has not suffered a concussion before, so assuming his symptoms completely resolve (and he says he is feeling better daily), his play should not be affected.
Other news of note:
Todd Pinkston has been unable to practice because of swelling in both Achilles' tendons. Pinkston ruptured his right Achilles' this time last year and had it surgically repaired. Given that with these injuries there is an increased likelihood of rupture on the other side, this is not sounding good. Stay tuned.
Correll Buckhalter and Ahman Green are still recovering from their quadriceps tendon repairs (this will be written about LeCharles Bentley next year). This is normal since it takes quite a bit of time to regain the explosive power of the quadriceps, but keep in mind that Buckhalter has injured that same tendon twice.
Darrell Jackson is still having trouble with the knee that was scoped twice in the last year. He has cartilage damage in this knee, and it will be important to monitor his function to see whether this is going to be a chronic problem.
Much is being made of Drew Brees being on a tight leash with his limited throwing reps as well as limited distance at which he is allowed to throw. Brees had a labral repair during the offseason. This surgery re-attaches the rim of cartilage around the edge of the shoulder, which increases joint stability. Brees is on a graded return to throwing program, which is typical for an overhead athlete recovering from a major injury. It is also sensible in that it allows him to participate in a controlled manner that continues to strengthen the tissue around his shoulder without overloading it. Brees appears to be on target to start the regular season. Let's hope that his offensive line is too.
Article first appeared 8/4/06