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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.

by Jeff Stotts
RotoWire Injury Expert

Injuries to key players can easily put a damper on a fantasy owner's holiday especially in the NBA. While some players have seen their NBA season end prematurely, a trio of former MVPs are proving to be tougher than a Christmas fruitcake and playing through painful injuries.

Kobe Bryant

2000-2008 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant suffered a fractured right index finger in a recent outing against the Timberwolves. The fracture has been classified as an avulsion fracture, meaning a tiny piece of bone was separated from the rest of the bone off by the tendon of a muscle. The fingers are complex digits with multiple ligaments and tendons working in unison to create a pulley-like system that efficiently moves each finger at multiple sites without compromising stability. Unfortunately because of its complexity, a fracture can be particularly disrupting and very difficulty to heal. Immobilization is the often the best course of treatment, however is not a reasonable option for Bryant who cannot miss an extended period of time. Instead Bryant continues to play, sporting a rigid but pliable splint on the finger for extra support and protection.

The finger will likely be an issue for the next month or so and fortunately will not require surgery. Normally a broken finger would hinder a player's shot but Kobe has been able to adjust his shooting stroke accordingly and is averaging 32 points a game since the injury occurred. Unfortunately the finger isn't the only issue bothering Bryant after he "tweaked" his left knee in Tuesday's win over Oklahoma City. Bryant landed awkwardly after a lay-up attempt but feels the knee will not force him to miss the Lakers' Christmas day showdown against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Fantasy owners love Bryant's willingness to fight through the pain and discomfort but should continue to hope neither injury is aggravated. A second, more serious, injury to the finger or knee could force the Lakers guard to miss some extended time.

Dirk Nowitzki and Carl Landry

Maverick forward and 2006-2007 league MVP, Dirk Nowitzki, is recovering from an unusual injury of his own. In a December 18 match up against the Rockets, Nowitzki inadvertently elbowed forward Carl Landry in the mouth. The collision damaged five of Landry's teeth with several pieces embedding themselves in Nowitzki's elbow. Nowitzki required stitches to close the resulting laceration but the initial sutures had to be removed when an X-ray revealed tooth fragments still in the elbow. The Mavericks medical staff aggressively debrided and cleaned the elbow to prevent infection in a procedure that proved to be very painful for Nowitzki. The forward spent the next few days resting and taking painkillers, forcing him to miss his team's win over the Cavaliers. Nowitzki has since returned to action wearing an elbow sleeve and a thick, bulbous pad to protect the wound. While Dirk was impressive in his return (27 points, nine rebounds) fantasy owners should see how the elbow responds before completely exhaling. Four days of rest between games should help the recovery process but stiffness and soreness may catch up to the big German, negatively affecting his shooting mechanics.

Landry also missed a game for Houston after a root canal and two dental bridges were required to repair the damage caused by Nowitzki's elbow. Houston's sixth man also performed well in his return, scoring 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting and should continue to provide solid fantasy numbers. It's not surprising to see that extensive dental surgery only kept him out of one game, considering Landry only missed eight games after taking a bullet in the lower leg during an incident late last season.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett, league MVP for the 2003-2004 season, recently missed a game for the Celtics as he nursed a deep thigh bruise. Though a thigh contusion may sound like a mild injury, damage to the quadriceps muscle group can be painful and limiting and could lead to a more serious condition known as myositis ossificans. If improperly treated, tiny calcified formations similar to bone may develop in the damaged tissue of the quad. Garnett was likely given the game off to rest the injury and ensure his availability for Boston's upcoming road trips that includes a visit to Eastern conference rival Orlando. It sounds like Garnett wanted to play against the Pacers and should not miss any more time.

Joel Przybilla

The hits just keep on coming for the Blazers. Center Joel Przybilla is expected to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon and dislocated patella in his right knee. The injury occurred early in first quarter of a game against the Mavericks when the center landed awkwardly after securing a rebound. His right leg was violently twisted underneath his body and he had to be helped off the court by teammates. The patella, better known as the kneecap, is a sesamoid bone, meaning it floats within the patellar tendon, the common tendon of the quadriceps muscle group that acts as the primary extensor tendon. A rupture here is often accompanied by a patellar dislocation as the kneecap is no longer anchored in place. The injury is extremely painful and straightening the leg in extension is virtually impossible. It will not be surprising if Przybilla will have to undergo surgery to repair the damage, making the center the latest Blazer to see his season end prematurely. Starting center Greg Oden is out for the year after fracturing his patella and the NBA recently awarded the team a hardship exemption as other injuries to Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, Jeff Pendergraph, and Patty Mills have depleted the Portland roster.

To further complicate things star guard Brandon Roy was also injured in the win over Dallas. Roy "tweaked" his shoulder in the fourth quarter and was unable to lift his arm past his shoulder following the game. Roy will begin taking anti-inflammatory medication and plans on undergoing an MRI when the Blazers return from their current road trip. Veteran Juwan Howard will instantly replace Przybilla in the starting rotation becoming an intriguing fantasy addition after recoding a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds once Przybilla went down.

Article first appeared on 12/27/09