By Stephania Bell, PT, MS, OCS, CSCS
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
RotoWire Injury Expert
RotoWire Injury Page
What's in a Name?
Tatum Bell indicated that his turf toe condition was affecting his ability to make cuts last week. Mike Bell came in to replace him against the Colts and did a fine job. (Bell vs Bell - Is it something in the name that makes them both worthy? I'll admit to a little bias here.) The big question is who is going to be the primary running back in Denver now? We may not know all the things that factor into Coach Shanahan's decision making, but one thing we do know is that turf toe is an injury that can linger.
Turf toe is an overstretching or tearing of the joint capsule (fibrous tissue around a joint) and ligaments (connecting one bone to the other) where the big toe meets the foot. Turf toe can come about several different ways but commonly it is a result of forced hyperextension (excessive backward bending) or jamming of the big toe. It is a dreaded injury in the NFL because it is extremely painful, it can be slow to heal and the function of the big toe is critical for every position. The big toe is what propels the body forward, allowing a player to push off when running downfield or making a hard cut. Now imagine that pushing off results in a needle-like jolt of pain through the joint. Makes it easier to appreciate why this seemingly minor injury can result in major complications for everyone from running backs to linemen. Mild cases can resolve within approximately 3-4 weeks; the most serious cases (think Deion Sanders) may require surgery.
Tatum Bell who actually is suffering with the condition in both feet, is listed as probable on the injury report this week. It suggests that he'll be available to play if needed, but at the very least would expect to see diminished carries in short-yardage, straight ahead situations. Keep in mind that Tatum indicated that the turf toe began back in Week 3 but was aggravated two weeks ago against the Browns. Given the way Mike Bell performed last week, Tatum will likely have a reduced load until this toe condition really resolves.
Can the Saints Keep Marching?
The Saints have been impressive thus far, but their offense has taken some injury hits of late. How serious are they? Well, Joe Horn is questionable this week with a groin injury. Although coach Sean Payton expects Horn to play this weekend, keep in mind that Horn dealt with a left-sided hamstring injury last year. He tried to come back a bit too quickly, aggravated it and missed more time. We know from all the muscle strains floating around the league this year that these injuries can be nagging and recurrent. Thirty-somethings with hamstring and groin injuries are a little more challenged in the healing department than twenty-somethings.
Left tackle Jammal Brown has a sprained left ankle and has been sporting a walking boot. His back-up is questionable because of a finger injury. I guess Drew Brees had better have his blind side antennae up and ready as Simeon Rice, (who himself is questionable with a shoulder injury), gets ready to greet him in Tampa Bay this weekend.
Tight End Ernie Conwell is still recuperating from his ninth knee surgery. Although Conwell would like to return by November 12th, this is optimistic considering he was originally slated to miss 4-6 weeks. Conwell had a scope to clean up a medial meniscus injury (this is one of those reported intermittently as a "repair" but is not really a true repair).
Reggie Bush aggravated an ankle injury he originally suffered in Week 1 when he was wrapped up in a tackle last Sunday. Although he's missed some practice, he's expected to play this week and insists that he feels fine. All in all, the Saints' injury list at this point is more annoyance than panic, but how those injuries evolve over the next two to three weeks could in large part determine whether the team contends for a playoff berth this season.
Martin Moving On
Curtis Martin, the NFL's fourth leading rusher of all time with 14,101 yards, announced this week that he's out for the season. He stopped short of announcing his retirement from the game, though he hinted that that scenario might be inevitable due to the degenerative changes in his knee. The bone on bone situation proved to be too much to overcome. It looks like the NFL is losing one of its class acts.
Other News of Note
Shaun Alexander is out another week because of his injured foot. Checking the timeline: Although Alexander had been playing with a sore foot, he officially went out once a fracture was observed in late September. Original (optimistic) projections had Alexander out for potentially a couple of weeks. When we talked about his injury originally, I mentioned that frank fractures take six weeks to heal but sometimes hairline cracks can resolve more quickly. I also said then that a major concern would be to ensure adequate healing to prevent a more serious fracture and ultimately, surgery. His now projected return, which at the soonest is Week 10, is more consistent with that six-week time frame. This should reduce the chances of a re-injury should Alexander land awkwardly or find himself at the bottom of a pile of tacklers. In the meantime, Alexander has been maintaining his conditioning, most recently including treadmill running. It's unlikely he'll miss a step when he sets foot back on the playing field.
Donte' Stallworth performed well in a limited role last week and appeared to suffer no setbacks with his hamstring. With another week behind him, and a bye this week, he should be back in full form in Week 10.
Chester Taylor left the game Monday night after being poked in the eye, then returned, only to leave again with a stinger. As discussed in relation to the Brett Favre injury earlier this season, stingers can have a wide range of presentations from benign to more serious. It appears that Taylor's is of the benign variety however since he's not listed on the Vikings' injury report. After a rough Monday night, Taylor might be looking to show just how healthy he is when the Vikings meet the 49ers this week.
Article first appeared 11/3/06