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Injury Analysis: Superstars on the Mend

Jeff Stotts

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

Welcome back to the beginning of another fantasy basketball season. While you likely spent the offseason focusing on your fantasy baseball team or marveling at the spectacle that was "The Decision", several marquee NBA players spent the offseason rehabbing injuries or in some cases undergoing surgery to fix chronic problems. For these players, the preseason is vital to returning to game-shape and insuring they will be ready for the grind of the regular season.

Kobe Bryant
Bryant secured his fifth championship ring then celebrated by undergoing the third arthroscopic knee surgery of his career. Bryant's right knee was a constant issue last season and throughout the playoffs and even forced him to miss four games in April. Bryant underwent a debridement procedure in late July in which several small pieces of cartilage were removed from the ailing knee. Bryant has been limited in training camp thus far, participating in just one practice. However coach Phil Jackson anticipates he will gradually increase Bryant's workload and plans on playing his star in limited minutes throughout the preseason. Fantasy owners hesitant to draft Bryant should remember he underwent a similar procedure in 2003 and in 2006 and was his usual dominant self in the following seasons, averaging 24.0 points and 31.6 points respectively.

Unfortunately the knee wasn't Bryant's only issue last year. The former MVP suffered an avulsion fracture in December of last season in which a tiny piece of bone was separated from the rest of the bone. Bryant continued to play, by altering his shooting mechanics while wearing a rigid but pliable splint on the finger for extra support and protection. He opted not to undergo surgery on the injured index finger, fearing the recovery process would be too long. Despite developing arthritis in the finger, Bryant has reported the pain is minimal and he will no longer need to wear the splint. While he may be miss the occasional game early on, draft Kobe in the top ten as usual and enjoy the productivity from the shooting guard position.

Chris Paul
Paul is another top-10 fantasy option with injury questions. The Hornets point guard suffered two injuries last season, one of which required surgery. Last January, he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. He returned to action six weeks later.

The menisci are two disks that serve as both as shock absorbers and stabilizers for the knee. When a tear occurs, a surgeon will repair or remove the damaged portion of the meniscus depending on its location. Given the nature of the injury and the relatively short amount of time he missed, it is likely Paul's injury was on the peripheral of the meniscus and presumably removed. Unfortunately, his comeback from the knee surgery was brief as he suffered a torn ligament in his right middle finger just seven games later. Surgical intervention was not necessary but the finger required an extensive amount of rest to completely mend, keeping Paul off of Team USA in the World Championship.

The much-needed rest appears to have helped as Paul recently declared himself 100 percent. The Hornets hope recently acquired Willie Green and Jannero Pargo will help ease the burden on Paul and fantasy owners should expect the three-time All-Star to come off fantasy boards early.

Yao Ming
The Rockets center has dealt with injury problems consistently throughout his career. In addition to missing all of last season with a fractured foot, Ming has missed 93 games in the previous five seasons while battling osetomyelitis in his big toe, another hairline fracture in his foot, and a broken tibial plateau in his right leg. Ming's most recent injury required surgery to repair a fracture and realign bones in his left foot. The fracture occurred to the navicular bone, a tiny tarsal bone of the foot shaped like a small ship. It sits on the inside or medial aspect of the foot and helps stabilize the foot and serves as an insertion site for muscles. A bone graft was used to repair the fracture of the navicular. The other bones of the foot were then realigned to improve the stability and structure of the foot and reduce the stress placed on the navicular.

Ming may be a seven-time All-Star but his 310-pound frame puts a considerable amount of stress on his lower extremities. Yao's size also makes him vulnerable to injury when smaller players collide or fall into his legs. The Rockets have already publicly stated they will attempt to protect their center by limiting his minutes to 24 a game. Taking this fact and coupling it with his injury-riddled past makes Ming a risky fantasy addition.

Greg Oden
Like Ming, Oden has a long and well-documented history of injuries. He sat out his first season recovering from microfracture surgery and has since missed time with foot and knee ailments. His latest injury, a fractured left patella (kneecap), was surgically repaired in December but has not completely healed. The knee is structurally stable but has developed tendinitis that is causing the center pain. Oden did drop 30 pounds over the summer that should help ease the load his lower extremities must carry but he remains a precarious fantasy selection. The Blazers have already ruled him out for opening night and have yet to give a timetable for his return.

Kevin Love
Love missed some time early in the week after developing swelling in his right knee. A MRI revealed no structural damage but did show some inflammation surrounding the knee.

Inflammation is a part of the body's line of defenses against damage and foreign pathogens. In the knee, a myriad of things can result in inflammation including tendinitis, bursitis, or meniscal damage. Regardless of the cause, inflammation must be carefully controlled to prevent it from becoming a chronic issue.

Fortunately he was able to return to action without any limitations and the incident should not effect his draft position for fantasy owners. Love remains an intriguing player who should benefit from the departure of Al Jefferson as he attempts to build on his solid performance with Team USA in the World Championships.

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