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NBA Injury Analysis: Time to Drop STAT

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.

Amar'e Stoudemire
The Knicks roller coaster season continues as Stoudemire is expected to miss two to four weeks with a bulging disc in his back.

Between the vertebrae of the spine sit intraverterbal discs designed to add stability to the spine while displacing the various amounts of force placed on and through the area. Each disc is made up of an outside layer of thick fibrocartiliage and softer, pulpy center. The outside layer, the annulus fibrosis, provides the stability, while the inner layer, the nucleus pulposus, serves as the shock absorber. I've often compared the makeup of these discs to a jelly donut. Firm on the outside and squishy on the inside.

Occasionally a disc will bulge, meaning it shifts from its normal location. Even the smallest of shifts can cause pain and if the change in position is drastic enough to impinge on nerves in the back, pain and loss of function are likely. Surgery is often necessary to reposition a significantly bulging disc. Fortunately specialists do not feel Stoudemire's injury warrants surgery at this time and have elected to utilize an epidural steroid injection. In this procedure, a needle will be injected into his spine to deliver an anti-inflammatory steroid. The injection will treat the neighboring nerve root while the Knicks training staff will implement a rehab plan designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the area. The goal is to have Amar'e back in time for the final games of the season so he can prepare for the playoffs. Unfortunately this doesn't help fantasy owners who should drop Stoudemire in all non-keeper leagues.

Owners in keeper leagues will also want to tread lightly as surgery in the offseason remains a strong possibility. Bulging discs can become chronic issues and it wouldn't be surprising to see Stoudemire eventually go under the knife. The surgery is common in the NBA as players such as Danilo Galinari, Marvin Williams, and Martell Webster have all undergone similar procedures to treat bulging discs.

Grant Hill
The Suns could be without their veteran forward for the remainder of the season after it was determined Hill would need surgery on his ailing knee. A recent MRI on the joint revealed the source of Hill's pain and limitation was a small mensical tear. Hill's availability for the remainder of the season is dependent on the severity and location of the tear.

The knee has shock absorbers similar to the intraverterbal discs of the back discussed with Amar'e. The discs of the knee are known as the menisci but, unlike the discs in the back, the menisci of the knee are designed to withstand a high degree of stress while maintaining their elasticity.

Unfortunately their position within the joint leaves them vulnerable to injury. Each disc is positioned on an articulating surface of the lower leg bone known as the tibia. If the knee is forcibly twisted, the discs become pinched between the tibia and bony bumps located on the femur.

If the tear is small and on the periphery of the disc then a quick recovery is possible.

Each meniscus is broken into zones based on the amount of blood supplied to the area. The outer edges of the meniscus are considered the red-red zone and are well supplied with blood. As you move inward, the amount of available blood decreases until the avascular white-white zone is reached. Blood does not circulate to this area, negatively affecting the body's natural ability to heal. Doctors performing the surgery Friday will be able to see the amount and location of the damage in Hill's knee and better provide a timeline. Unfortunately Hill has a history of injuries to this knee, including a minor arthroscopic procedure performed in September to remove a floating piece of cartilage.

Expect Hill to miss a majority if not all of the regular season. Guards Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown will see an increase in responsibilities as well as an increase in fantasy value. Brown has thrived as a starter, averaging 19.0 points on 49 percent shooting in four starts this season.

Fast Breaks

Stephen Curry: It looks like Curry's season could once again come to a premature end. Out since March 11, Curry will be shut down for two more weeks before having his troublesome right ankle reevaluated. Curry underwent offseason surgery in attempt to stabilize his often-sprained ankle but has sprained the ankle and strained a tendon in the same foot at various points this season. While he could be available for the final 10 games of the regular season, it seems likely the Warriors will play it safe with the new face of their franchise.

LeBron James: James suffered a dislocated right ring finger that he ultimately reduced (realigned) himself. Precautionary x-rays revealed no breaks and James was in the lineup Thursday against the Mavericks. He finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, and five assists, assuring fantasy owners he remains a must start.

Jeremy Lin: While Lin seemed unstoppable earlier in the season, the Knicks point guard will miss his third straight game Friday with left knee soreness. Details remain vague but it seems likely the soreness could be attributed to overuse and fatigue. Since Linsanity began on Feburary 4, Lin has averaged nearly 35 minutes of playing time in 26 games. In the 22 games before his meteoric rise began, Lin TOTALED about 55 minutes of court time. The Knicks are providing their point guard with some much-needed rest in hopes of having him fresh down the stretch.

Kyle Lowry: Lowry took a big step towards a late season return when doctors removed a catheter from his right arm on Thursday. The catheter, most likely a peripheral venous catheter (PVC), was being utilized to administer medication to help fight a bacterial infection that has kept Lowry off the court since March 8. Lowry will continue to take antibiotics and will be examined April 7 to determine if he can return to play. Even if he does get the green light anticipate some early struggles as the catheter prevented him from any kind of activity. He will need extra time to get back into shape and deal with the weight loss caused by the infection.

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

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