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Injury Analysis: RGIII's Knee and a Huge Sigh of Relief

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, PES, LAT). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Robert Griffin III
The sports world held its breath as RGIII limped down the tunnel and toward a MRI machine following a knee injury in Washington's win over Baltimore. The stellar rookie quarterback was injured after taking an awkward hit late in the fourth quarter. He attempted to remain in the game but was clearly limited, throwing two passes with nothing but his upper body. He was replaced by Kirk Cousins and headed to the locker room.

While the world waited for an update, varying reports emerged suggesting the injury was a knee sprain while others said it was a knee strain. The distinction may seem insignificant to some but for fantasy owners needing RGIII's production there is a huge difference. A strain is an injury that occurs to a muscle and is often called a "pulled" or "torn" muscle. A sprain is an injury that has occurred to a ligament that connects bone to bone. Both strains and sprains vary in their respective recovery time and should not be viewed as the same thing. A sprained ligament can take longer to heal than a strained muscle because they often have an inferior blood supply.

It was ultimately revealed that the injury was indeed a sprain but the flawed information continued to spread. Multiple outlets called the injury a torn ligament while others claimed it was a sprain with no tearing involved. These reports are inaccurate. All sprains are accompanied by some degree of tearing, but the severity of the damage can be different. A Grade I sprain means microfibers of the ligament were overstretched and torn. A Grade II sprain is better known as a partial tear as complete fibers of the ligament are disrupted. If the ligament completely tears or ruptures it receives a Grade III or IV classification. RGIII's final diagnosis of a Grade I sprain of his lateral collateral ligament (LCL) was finally confirmed Monday, ending the speculation and confusion that surrounded the entire situation.

The LCL ligament sits on the outside portion of the knee, providing stability with lateral movement. The LCL is not as well known as its counterparts the MCL or ACL largely in part because it's a difficult ligament to sprain and the necessary force to injure the ligament is rare. When a tackle is made the defender usually hits the offensive player on the outer portion of his legs, producing a valgus force that puts stress on the MCL and the inside portion of the knee. However when RGII went down his right leg whipped up in the air and Baltimore defender Haloti Ngata landed on the inside aspect of his knee, creating a varus force that sprained the LCL.

The good news is the LCL can heal conservatively (without surgery) and because the sprain received the lowest classification a quick recovery remains possible. The key for the next few days is minimizing the associated swelling and taking the necessary steps to insure the ligament remains stable. If all goes well its reasonable to suggest Griffin can play in Week 15 against the Browns. However Griffin's mobility could be limited and his ability to stretch a play may be reduced. Expect him to see limited practice reps and ultimately be a game-time decision. If he does play, you have to scale back your expectations.

Dez Bryant
The Cowboys have won four of their last five games but could be forced to continue their push for the playoffs without their best receiver. Bryant suffered a broken left index finger in the team's win over the Bengals and is contemplating season-ending surgery. The injury occurred in the fourth quarter but didn't prevent him from catching a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo. Early reports surfaced that the injury resulted in torn ligaments and that surgery was inevitable. However Bryant met with a hand specialist Monday and will wait to make a decision on surgery until more information is provided. The finger is already broken and if pain tolerance is the biggest associated risk than Bryant will play. However if playing would result in the injury worsening then expect Bryant to end up on the injured reserve and under the knife.

If Bryant's season is indeed over than expect Romo to lean heavily on Miles Austin and Jason Witten. Wide out Kevin Ogletree would see more time but he's been a disappointment since his huge performance way back in Week 1. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley would also see an increase in reps.

Ahmad Bradshaw
The running back suffered yet another injury Sunday in New York's route of New Orleans. Neck and foot problems have limited him all year but Bradshaw injured his left knee and underwent medical testing Monday. The team has not yet disclosed their findings and his availability for Sunday against the Falcons is uncertain. The sudden emergence of David Wilson could also cut into Bradshaw's workload, making him a precarious start moving forward.

Turf Burns

Dwayne Bowe: Bowe suffered broken ribs against the Browns and has already been ruled out for Sunday's contest against the Raiders. Expect Bowe to hit the IR this week.

Donald Brown: Brown remains limited by ankle and knee injuries and remains a question mark for Week 15. He did not practice at all last week and his workload this week should serve as a good indicator of his health. Vick Ballard would remain the primary running back but would get more carries if Brown were out once again.

Jared Cook: The Tennessee tight end is done for the year after tearing his rotator cuff Sunday. He will be placed on the IR.

Fred Jackson: Jackson's season is over after the running back suffered a Grade II MCL sprain in his right knee against the Rams. CJ Spiller will become Buffalo's starting running back with Tashard Choice moving up a spot on the depth chart.

LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek: Shady has passed his IMPACT test but must still receive clearance from a neurologist before he can return to the Philadelphia backfield. With the Eagles playing Thursday, don't count on the Eagles rushing him back. Teammate Celek will not play against the Bengals after suffering a concussion of his own.

Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.