By Stephania Bell, PT, MS, OCS, CSCS
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
RotoWire Injury Expert
RotoWire Injury Page
Steel Curtain Wearing Thin
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu suffered a Grade II (moderate) left MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprain during last week's game against the Ravens. The team is saying he's week to week, but it depends on the degree of damage (see last week's article). Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck just returned from a similar injury after missing four weeks, but Polamalu's position requires more speed, much sharper cutting and a willingness to deliver a hit, not just a slide to avoid one. The team remains optimistic that he can return before the end of the season, but it's no sure thing. Given Joey Porter's elbow troubles, Clark Haggans' bad hip and an already thin secondary, the Steelers defense isn't close to full strength.
On the offensive side, Hines Ward underwent a scope on Monday after an MRI showed a broken bone in his knee. Ward hyperextended the knee during Week 11 and bravely tried to play last week before leaving in the third quarter. A hyperextension injury, where the knee gets forced backward beyond its normal range, stresses ligaments and capsular tissue on the posterior aspect of the knee. Many of these tissues have some attachment to the fibula, the skinny bone on the outer portion of the lower leg. Adequate force during hyperextension can lead to a small avulsion fracture where a tiny chip of the fibula gets pulled away when the soft tissue gets overstretched. This loose chip can cause problems as it can interfere with normal joint motion, hence the need to remove it. If, in fact, this is what happened with Ward (the Steelers have not confirmed the specifics), then he could be looking at a fairly speedy (2-3 week) return. Unfortunately for the Steelers, their Week 14 game is on a Thursday night, so three is likely the magic number.
Say It Ain't Seau
Could he really be ending his season with an injury for the third year in a row? Junior Seau might be retiring for real this time after breaking his right forearm in the 2nd quarter of last Sunday's game against the Bears. Seau was tackling Cedric Benson from behind when the sweet spot of his forearm inadvertently collided with Benson's heel. Perhaps you noticed the unnatural bending of Seau's forearm at mid-shaft as he slowly got up from the turf, a clear indication that at least one of the two bones there was broken. Seau was escorted from the field in a protective splint to ensure that no further damage took place. The Patriots, as usual, have been mum on the injury, but it is safe to say that it will be several months before Seau regains full strength and mobility in his arm and hand.
Michael Strahan is still listed as doubtful with his Lisfranc (midfoot) injury, and though he's doing some individual drills, he's not likely to return this week. Osi Umenyiora, recovering from a hip flexor injury, took part in full practice for the first time in six weeks on Wednesday. Although he is still listed as questionable for Sunday, this increased activity suggests that Umenyoria is preparing to go. Also looking ready to go is cornerback Sam Madison who has practiced fully all week after missing four games due to a hamstring injury. He will need his hamstring to be at full strength to cover the Cowboys' speedy receivers. Meanwhile, fellow cornerback Corey Webster is likely out with a turf toe problem.
Despite his griping earlier in the season, (and I even came down on him about the protracted ankle injury), how about tight end Jeremy Shockey showing some toughness last Sunday? During pre-game warm-ups he suffered a compound fracture dislocation to his ring finger. This means his finger was out of joint (dislocation), broken (fracture) and the bone punctured the skin (compound). It was a bloody mess. Shockey however calmly trotted into the locker room, got the finger reset, stitched up and cleaned up, then came out to play as if nothing much had happened. He was able to catch the ball, take hits on that hand and yell loudly, all of which he should do again this week against the Cowboys.
Other News of Note
Chris Perry sustained a broken right fibula Sunday that required season ending surgery. He had just returned to play on October 22nd after being on the PUP list following off-season surgery on his left ankle and a knee scope. That's some serious bad luck for a young player. Hopefully the jump on the off-season will help him fully recover, renew his conditioning and come into next season healthy.
Dallas Clark could be seen writhing in pain when he landed on the front of his right tibia (shin) during Sunday's game against the Eagles. Although Clark's agony made it appear as if this could be season-ending, he surprised everyone by walking off the field unassisted. Rumors were flying that Clark tore his ACL, but the Colts will only say the MRI indicated the injury was less severe than initially feared. Here's my take: The way Clark landed and the pain he was in aroused suspicion of a cruciate ligament type injury. However, when an athlete is able to walk unassisted afterwards, it suggests that even if there is a tear, it's likely incomplete (meaning a Grade II, for instance, vs a Grade III). That Clark isn't going to surgery right away also argues against a complete tear. Even so, Clark is unlikely to return before four weeks.
Frank Gore had a bruised right ankle at the end of last Sunday's game against the Rams. You can bet that the ankle is not all that's bruised on this hard running back who has been taking a pounding on behalf of the 49ers. The minor injury actually afforded him some much-needed rest early in the week. Most importantly, Gore was able to participate in practice by mid-week and is expected to play against the Saints this Sunday.
The Saints will be without tight end Ernie Conwell who is now on injured reserve after being unable to return from his latest knee surgery. This was Conwell's ninth knee surgery, and though he attempted to play last week, his knee simply could not cooperate.
Saints wide receiver Marques Colston, who was still listed as questionable on Thursday with a left ankle sprain, is still limited in practice. He's been running routes, but not at full strength and not with full confidence. The bright spot is that Colston is running routes at all, a fairly high level activity, so could be game-time decision.
Bills running back Willis McGahee sure made broken ribs look like no big deal. He actually only carried the ball 12 times for 60 yards, but he found the end zone twice. He wasn't even expected to see that much action, but Anthony Thomas tweaked his ankle. Based on McGahee's performance, and his only aftereffect being some soreness in the ribs, expect him to see a bigger load Sunday against the Chargers.
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck's knee looked great this week, and he was able to move effectively, slide when necessary and step up assertively to throw – all things that reflect his confidence and healing in his knee. He did manage to break a finger in Monday night's game, but fortunately, it is in his non-throwing hand. Apparently he sustained the injury during the first quarter, yet his best performance was in the second half. That alone should be a good indicator that this injury should not affect him this week.
Running back Shaun Alexander showed no residual symptoms from the fractured fourth metatarsal in his foot Monday night, carrying the ball a whopping 40 times for 200 yards. For now, it looks like the fracture has healed, and Alexander is 100 percent healthy for the first time since Week 1 when he bruised the foot initially.
Article first appeared 12/1/06