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In Street Clothes...

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.

In Street Clothes...
by Jeff Stotts
RotoWire Injury Expert

The NBA playoffs are still six weeks away but fantasy owners are on a much stricter timeline. It is about that time to cut ties with those injured players that are still "weeks away" while tough decisions await owners still clinging onto those players trying to return from a long injury-related layoff. Remember just because a player is back on the court does not mean the injury is completely healed and they can be relied upon. Some injuries can alter a player's performance. Consider Cleveland's Mo Williams, who missed 11 games with a left shoulder sprain. In his first four games back, the former All-Star struggled with his shot averaging 7.5 points on 27 percent shooting. While Williams erupted for 19 points in Cleveland's recent win over rival Boston, he is the perfect example of how time is a necessary component of the rehabilitation process.

Shaquille O'Neal and Paul Pierce

Cleveland's Shaquille O'Neal is a dominant force and a beastly inside presence so it is hard to believe an injury to his thumb could sideline the Big Diesel. However it appears the Cavaliers will be without O'Neal after he suffered what the team is calling a "significant" sprain to his right thumb. The thumb is an extremely complex joint making it much more mobile than the fingers. The carpometacarpal joint of the thumb is located where the carpal bones of the wrist articulate with the metacarpal bone of the thumb. It is classified as a saddle joint and allows for flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, and circumduction. All these motions allow basketball players to perform a variety of actions and grips necessary to dribble, shoot, and rebound. Further up the thumb is the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint that allows for further motion. The capsules of these joint is reinforced by tendons and ligaments that help stabilize the area but unfortunately leave it susceptible to injury. The specific site of the sprain has yet to be released but it sounds like Shaq may have sprained the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the MCP joint. A sprain of the UCL is commonly known as gamekeeper's thumb and can require surgery if a complete tear occurs. Thumb injuries are extremely painful and limiting and usually require time in a splint and extended rest so expect Shaq to miss at least a couple of games as he nurses the injury. Anderson Varejao replaced O'Neal after halftime and finished with a double-double, netting 14 points and 10 rebounds. Coach Mike Brown has already ruled out O'Neal for Friday night and Varejao is slated to start.

A thumb sprain is also bothering Celtics forward Paul Pierce. Pierce initially injured the thumb in a win at Los Angeles and struggled with his shot in games against the Blazers and Nuggets, shooting a combined 5-of-19 while averaging just 7.0 points. The Celtics elected to rest their star in their past two outings and Coach Doc Rivers expects he will miss a few more games. The good news is the swelling has subsided and no fracture has been discovered. Like O'Neal the best option for Pierce is to rest and splint the injured area. Unfortunately fantasy owners don't have the privilege of patience and may want to consider looking elsewhere for the stretch run. Marquis Daniels has replaced Pierce in the starting lineup on, but has been limited himself as he battles the flu.

Jason Thompson

Sacramento forward Jason Thompson will be sidelined for the next two weeks after taking a nasty fall in the Kings' recent game against the Pistons. A X-ray revealed two fractures in his lower back in the region of the spine known as the lumbar spine. The five lumbar vertebrae are the largest and strongest in the spine providing both support and stability. If a severe fracture occurs there is concern about permanent damage and spinal cord involvement. Fortunately Thompson's fractures were non-displaced meaning the broken bone did not move and he avoided serious injury. Furthermore, surgery will not be required to fixate the injury. Thompson will likely be placed in a brace and required to rest as the fracture mends. Recently benched Spencer Hawes should return to the starting lineup and fantasy relevance.

Josh Howard

In just his fourth game with his new team, Washington forward Josh Howard will miss the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. An ACL injury already ended the season of Milwaukee's Michael Redd but unfortunately for Howard the timing could not be worse. Obviously Howard's fantasy value for this season is gone and it looks like that decreased worth will carry over into next season. Howard is essentially in the final year of his contract, with the Wizards holding a pricey team option for next season. The required rehabilitation for the injury will keep the former Maverick out until at least the first month of next season and could scare off any potential suitors in the offseason especially when you consider his recent struggles to return from ankle and wrist surgery. Another new Wizard should become a hot addition in fantasy leagues as Al Thornton should benefit from J-Ho's absence. He started in Wednesday's loss to Memphis and scored 16 points to go with 11 rebounds.

Ronnie Brewer

Like Howard, Ronnie Brewer's time with his new team was short-lived as the guard suffered a partially torn right hamstring in his first game since joining Memphis following a trade deadline deal. Muscle strains are graded based on the severity of damage done to the muscle. A minor Grade I strain occurs when a muscle is overstretched but not torn while a full thickness tear is classified as a Grade III strain. Brewer's injury is in the middle and rated as a Grade II strain. An MRI confirmed the partial tearing and will sideline him for three weeks. It will not require surgery. The hamstring is responsible for knee flexion and is a necessary component of running and jumping. Brewer has begun rehab and hopes to return in time to help the Grizzlies make a playoff push. However his fantasy season is over and should be dropped immediately.

Article first appeared on 2/27/10