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NBA Injury Analysis: Boozer's Debut Approaching, LeBron's Leg Injury Seems Minor

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.

NBA players play a long a grueling season. Each game takes a physical toll on the body and while not everyone shows up on an injury report, each player deals with various sprains and strains throughout the year. As fantasy owners watching from afar, it is easy to question a player's toughness if he sits a few games to nurse an ailment, particularly when you hear the term bruise. However do not your let your preconceived notions of what a bruise or other injury is cloud your judgment and force you to make an unwise roster move.

Several players including Atlanta's Marvin Williams, Boston's Shaquille O'Neal, Minnesota's Michael Beasley and Miami's LeBron James are battling "bruises" or contusions. Williams and O'Neal are both dealing with bone bruises to their patella (kneecap). Williams suffered his injury Wednesday against the Pistons following a hard fall. Shaq has been a spectator for Boston's last two contests after bruising his knee against the Knicks. Bone bruises may not sound like much but they are a significant injury. The patella floats within the quadriceps tendon, providing extra leverage for the muscle and increasing the ability to straighten the leg. A bone bruise to the patella can limit an athlete's range of motion and cause pain when walking, running, or jumping. Bone contusions also tend to take longer to heal than a soft tissue contusion and while they are not classified as a fracture, they are actually small breaks in the fibers of the bony cortex. The body's natural defense system treats a bone contusion just like a break, repairing the injury site by laying down new bony cells and tissue. Williams is considered day-to-day and will not play Friday. His play so far as been erratic and the injury may be a good excuse to look elsewhere. The Big Shamrock will also sit Friday and could miss next week's four-game road trip that includes a rematch against the Heat. Jermaine O'Neal will start in Shaq's absence with Glen Davis receiving an extra bump in minutes.

Minnesota was happy to hear Michael Beasley avoided any serious injury after taking a scary fall against Miami. Beasley was having a nice night scoring 11 points in 10 minutes. However the night ended prematurely as the forward crashed to the ground following a dunk attempt and was helped off the court by teammates. X-rays came back negative but the hip was sore enough to keep Beasley out of the blowout loss to Orlando on Wednesday. Hip contusions are common because the bony area and multiple neighboring nerves are inadequately protected. Luckily Beasley shouldn't miss an extended period of time and could be available when the Timberwolves face the visiting Hawks on Friday.

The Heat are also learning a bruise can be a much bigger deal that it sounds as LeBron James sat out Thursday's practice with a "deep shin bruise". The bruise is likely to the tibia and is reportedly causing LeBron pain when he flexes his foot. This isn't surprising considering the location of the injury. One of the primary muscles for foot dorsiflexion, the anterior tibialis, is located on the front aspect of the lower leg. The area does not have a large amount of soft tissue protection making the anterior tibialis susceptible to injury from a direct blow. Coach Erik Spoelstra downplayed the injury and called James' absence purely "precautionary". Remain confident and keep James in your lineup.

LeBron's former team, the Cavaliers, are dealing with an injury to one of their own as forward Antawn Jamison continues to battle a sore left knee. Jamison missed Tuesday's loss to Atlanta as his knee continues to intermittently swell. He has dealt with multiple injuries and ailments in the knee including tendinitis and a sprain. While a recent MRI and X-rays revealed there is no structural damage to the knee, Jamison and the Cleveland medical staff are still searching to find the root of the swelling and soreness. He is questionable for Friday's game against the Sixers. The balky knee and reduced role have significantly diminished Jamison's fantasy value. Consider trading him to someone willing to take a risk on the former Sixth Man of the Year but don't expect high value in return.

Atlanta's Jamal Crawford, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, was in street clothes Wednesday after suffering a turf toe injury the night before. Turf toe is a hyperextension injury of the big toe of the foot and is classified as a ligament sprain. Turf toe is particularly painful when pushing off the foot while accelerating or jumping. Crawford's injury was so painful he was unable to put his basketball shoes on prior to the game on Tuesday. Unfortunately turf toe tends to linger and can take an extended period of time to fully heal. Tape jobs and modifications to the athlete's shoe may support the foot and ease the associated pain but the injury is likely to give Crawford fits for a while. He is questionable for Friday's game against in Minnesota.

Carlos Boozer inched closer to his Chicago debut after having his cast removed Tuesday. Boozer has been recovering from surgery to repair a fractured pinkie, sustained after he tripped over a big in his house. The fractured fifth metacarpal required surgical pins to stabilize and has forced Boozer to miss all four of Chicago's regular season contests. He is now in a soft cast and will begin numerous rehabilitation exercises designed to improve the range of motion and then the strength in his right hand. Boozer will continue to condition with the team and should be cleared for basketball activity sometime in the next few weeks, shortly after having the stitches removed. Hopefully you were able to snag Boozer on the cheap and his impending return can bolster your lineup. Forward Taj Gibson has filled in admirably for Boozer, averaging 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds as a starter. Gibson's value will take a hit when Boozer is healthy but he should remain a decent fantasy play in deeper leagues.

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