By Stephania Bell, PT, MS, OCS, CSCS
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
RotoWire Injury Expert
RotoWire Injury Page
Jake Delhomme has a sprained thumb (remember a sprain is a ligament injury). Although there are many ligaments in the thumb and hand that might not interfere too much if minimally injured, there are a few that are of major importance to the ability to function at quarterback. The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is one of the key ligaments that help stabilize the thumb at its base (metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint). If injured, it becomes painful to have any stress on the ligament, and Delhomme appeared to have pain when his thumb got bent away from the index finger. Typically, while healing, the thumb is supported in a position of slight adduction with a splint (bringing it slightly closer to the index finger) to prevent the ligament from being stretched further. Coach John Fox insists that Delhomme is day-to-day and could still play, but it is hard to imagine Delhomme will suddenly be able to grip the ball on Sunday, especially when you consider the grip the quarterback requires when throwing positions the thumb so that it is spread away from the fingers.
Deshaun Foster should return to the lineup this week as he recovers from his hyperextended elbow. He practiced last week and somewhat surprisingly did not play, but this may have been in preparation for ensuring his health down the stretch. No long-term effects are expected from this injury, but he may split time with Deangelo Williams as he works back in.
Viking Ship Sinking?
Chester Taylor is doubtful after missing practice again Thursday with bruised ribs. Whether bruised or broken (like Willis McGahee's), the pain associated with these injuries is relatively equal. In the absence of a fracture, Taylor does not have the concerns of the bone displacing should he take a hit. Taylor does have the same type of pain with breathing, twisting and contact. Taylor has been dealing with various bumps and bruises (neck, wrist, calf) throughout the season, and this is just the latest result of him being the feature back. It's likely that Taylor will return by next week, but he might be sporting some extra padding, which could slow him down.
Brooks Bollinger has a Grade II AC separation, albeit on his non-throwing shoulder, that's likely to keep him sidelined this week. The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is supported by three primary ligaments. A sprain (ligament injury) at this joint is not uncommon for quarterbacks because they get driven into the ground, landing on the point of the shoulder where the acromion (the most lateral projection on the shoulderblade – the "A" in AC) and the clavicle (collarbone – the "C") meet. When the ligaments get damaged, these two landmarks begin to move apart, or separate, hence the term "separated shoulder." Obviously it would be much more problematic if this were his throwing arm. If he's already having substantial pain, however, then further tackles could make it more difficult for him to function. For this week, at least, it appears that Brad Johnson will continue to steer the Viking ship – one more loss and it could capsize.
Why Kickers Should Stick to Kicking
Jason Elam is now dealing with a hamstring injury in his left (plant) leg as a result of running during a fake field-goal play in last week's game against the Seahawks. It was an admirable attempt until Elam pulled his left leg up sharply to evade a tackler. He was slow to get up after being taken down, and he limped off the field. He was able to successfully kick an extra point later in the game but immediately reached for his hamstring after making the kick, limping even more noticeably at that point.
It might seem that the hamstring would be more stressed in the kicking leg – and it is – but only in the stretch direction. The hamstring has to be fully lengthened in the kicking leg in order to raise the leg high enough to perform. The plant leg however depends heavily on the hamstring muscle contraction as it helps control the position of the knee when the foot is fixed. The hamstring also helps stabilize the pelvis on the plant leg so that the other side of the pelvis can rotate during kicking. If the hamstring on the plant side is injured, it can severely limit the power the kicker can generate.
It is worth noting that Elam also had a calf and a hip injury on the left side earlier in the season. That, along with his age (36), suggests that Elam could need a little extra recovery time. The Broncos maintain that they expect him to play, but Elam is not kicking in practice this week and is still listed as questionable for Sunday.
Other News of Note
Bills running back Willis McGahee has now added "ankle injury" to his repertoire for this season. The ribs appear to be fine, and though McGahee was in a boot as late as Wednesday, he seems to think he will be playing this weekend. McGahee's tough – but this latest setback may force him to split time again with Anthony Thomas who has already shown that he is up to the task.
Although Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks managed to eke out a win via a 50-yard field goal last week, Hasselbeck has indicated that his knee, or more accurately the brace that he has to wear because of the knee, is causing him some trouble. The brace to protect the MCL is reinforced with metal hinges on either side of the knee joint to prevent medial/lateral instability. Although it is only a small degree of limitation, the rigidity at the knee forces Hasselbeck to rotate a little more at the hip to compensate. Any thrower's mechanics are extremely sensitive, and this adjustment, though minimal is affecting Hasselbeck's delivery a bit.
Joe Horn aggravated his hamstring/groin last Sunday after trying to get back quickly. Although he's listed as questionable, he hasn't practiced and appears unlikely to play this week. With Marques Colston still nursing that sore ankle, the Saints receiving corps is a bit depleted. The question from week to week is when Colston will return. Based on his early activity, it appeared he would be playing by now. Perhaps he tried to do too much too soon. In any case, he still reports pain with pushing off and though his function has improved, he doesn't seem ready for a game situation at this point. This could change by the late game on Sunday so it is worth keeping an eye on remaining practice reports.
Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris injured his hamstring, and it is being reported that he could miss the remainder of the regular season. According to the NFL Network, Harris is headed to Dallas to see a "hamstring specialist," whatever that means. In any case, this injury is so frustrating and so debilitating (and clearly, so common) that players are bound to seek out whatever advice might help them shorten their time on the injury report, especially if their team is playoff bound. Unfortunately, there's no substitute for time when it comes to soft tissue healing. Expert advice or not, Harris may be well served to rest until the playoffs begin.
Article first appeared 12/8/06