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NBA Injury Analysis: Kobe's All-Star Injury a Test for New Protocols

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.

Kobe Bryant

It's not often a significant injury occurs in an exhibition game but Dwyane Wade's hard foul on Bryant in the All-Star game resulted in a broken nose and a concussion for the Lakers guard. Following the West's win over the East, Bryant was taken for a CT scan where a fractured nose was discovered. He began experiencing headaches and nausea and ultimately a concussion was diagnosed. Bryant was immediately placed into the NBA's new concussion protocol becoming the biggest name to test the new procedures.

The new rules begin in the offseason when the players take a neurocognitive exam designed to provide an injury-free, baseline score. If a concussion is sustained the injured player must then retake the exam and display scores at or better than his baseline results before he will be allowed to play. The player must also remain symptom free after undergoing multiple exertion tests that increase the heart rate and mimic the skills required to play. Once the green light has been given by team medical personnel, the player's medical information is sent to the director of the league's concussion program, Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, where it is determined if the player may or may not return to action.

Bryant swiftly passed all the checkpoints in the protocol and returned to action Wednesday, scoring 31 points to go along with eight assists and seven rebounds. He wore a protective mask and will continue to do so until the nose is no longer an issue. Furthermore Bryant received an in-game massage on his neck to help with a soft tissue injury also suffered at the hands of Wade. Fantasy owners shouldn't worry about Bryant's availability unless he sustains another head injury. The effects of concussions are cumulative and second injury would likely require a longer recovery window.

Joe Johnson

Johnson continues to struggle with tendinitis in his left knee and will sit on Friday for the third time in Atlanta's last four games. The knee began giving Johnson problems just prior to the All-Star Break and the Hawks eventually elected to shut him down for two games. The rest and associated treatment appeared to have helped as Johnson returned to action Wednesday. Unfortunately as game progressed the knee once again became an issue.

Knee tendinitis is a common occurrence in basketball and most often involves the quadriceps tendon. This specific tendon is a conjoined tendon of the four quadriceps muscles located on the front of the thigh. Tendinitis often occurs after excessive force has been placed through the tendon or with constant, repetitive motion. The tendon becomes inflamed, causing pain and discomfort before, after, or during activity depending on the severity.

Patellar tendinitis is the exact kind of injury that can be associated with this year's jam-packed schedule. Al Horford's pectoral tear or Anderson Varejao's wrist fracture were traumatic injuries that could have occurred regardless of the scheduling format. However overuse injuries like tendinitis are much more likely when players are expected to play three games in three nights and fail to get the rest their bodies so desperately require.

Johnson's best weapon right now is rest. By halting the repetitive motion causing him problems, the inflammation can be treated and the tendon will be allowed to heal. He can then focus on improving the strength and flexibility of his lower extremity muscles so that his knee will be better suited to handle the rigors of basketball. Unfortunately it is unlikely Johnson will be able to completely shut down so the Hawks medical staff must find the healthy balance between rest and rehab to keep their All-Star in shape while buying the joint some much need respite.

Fantasy owners frustrated with Johnson's availability have to look at the bigger picture. The knee has been problematic and is limiting Johnson's productivity. After averaging 19.8 points per game on 44 percent shooting for the month of January, Johnson's number dipped to 14.5 points per game on 39 percent shooting in 11 February games. Until the knee feels better his numbers were likely going to be closer to his February results than his January ones. A few games off now may prove to be extremely vital down the stretch for the Hawks and fantasy owners alike.

Fast Breaks

Stephen Curry: Curry hopes to return Friday and be more than just a decoy after playing just three seconds in Golden State's last three games. Curry is recovering from a strained lower leg muscle and a foot sprain on his problematic right ankle. The sprain and strain will compromise the stability of an already troublesome joint and the Warriors would be wise to insure he's 100 percent before letting him return to the court.

Danilo Galinari: Galinari is targeting a Monday return from a significant ankle sprain that has kept him from 11 consecutive games. I suspect the Nuggets will closely monitor his minutes to see how the ankle responds, particularly since a previously unknown bone chip was discovered following the injury.

Manu Ginobili: The Spurs are ready to welcome back Ginobili as early as Friday after he suffered an oblique strain two weeks ago. He has returned to practice and was an active participant in 3-on-3 drills. Fantasy owners should minimize their early expectations, as he is likely to be eased back into the rotation.

Paul Millsap: X-rays on Millsap's injured heel were negative and the team is calling the injury a severe bruise. Bruises of the heel can be padded but often need a good period of rest to properly heal. He is doubtful for Friday's contest against the streaking Miami team.

Dirk Nowitzki: The Mavs' MVP departed early from the team's loss to Memphis Wednesday after experiencing lower back tightness. After receiving treatment Nowitzki is confident he will be able to play Friday against the Hornets. Keep in mind Dallas is in the middle of a brutal stretch of games, playing seven games in the next nine days. If the back remains an issue don't be surprised to see Dirk miss a game or two.

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