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NBA Injury Analysis: Vertigo

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.

Pau Gasol

The Lakers' center left Sunday's game against the Magic after experiencing dizziness and nausea. He was administered fluids in the athletic training room before being taken to local hospital for observation. The final diagnosis was vertigo, leaving Gasol doubtful for Tuesday's game against the Knicks.

Vertigo is a condition that disrupts a sensory system in the inner ear known as the vestibular system. This system is responsible for providing an individual their sense of balance when standing and moving. It also helps the brain process information to complete both voluntary and involuntary motions when performing complex tasks like basketball. When a person experiences vertigo they often get extremely dizzy and report feeling an uncontrollable spinning motion. The sensation of vertigo can be attributed to various causes including a concussion or a disorder known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo and caused by a buildup within the inner ear. Most forms of vertigo, including BBPV, are treatable, but each treatment often is accompanied by a considerable amount of time.

An MRI was performed on Gasol's head and did not produce any signs of a concussion or other significant head injury. The Lakers will likely perform additional tests to pinpoint the exact cause of Gasol's vertigo and begin the necessary treatment protocol. If the symptoms subside, the center will be allowed to return, but his availability for this week remains unknown.

Dwight Howard

The Rockets big man missed his first games of the season last week with a cyst in his left ankle. The injury was listed as an ankle strain which may have caused some confusion. A cyst is a collection of cells that can contain fluid, air, or other materials. One of these fluids can be synovial fluid, a viscous fluid that lubricates and reduces friction in various joints. A synovial cyst can easily develop if a tendon, like the ones located in the ankle joint, is subjected to trauma like with a strain. The Rockets have never called Howard's injury a synovial cyst but it remains the most likely option given the available information. Howard underwent a minor procedure to excise the cyst and returned after a three-game absence. It should be noted that cysts can return following removal but it shouldn't be a problem for the remainder of the season. He should be reinserted into lineups in all formats.

Russell Westbrook

After three surgeries on his right knee, there was an understandable level of panic when Westbrook limped off the court on Saturday following a collision with Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. Westbrook's right ankle got tangled with Lowry creating a rigid chain within his lower extremity. Lowry then fell into the outside of Westbrook's right knee, placing a valgus force through the knee. A valgus force starts on the outside of the knee but puts excessive strain on the medial collateral ligament (MCL) situated on the inside of the joint. Fortunately, further testing and examination revealed no significant damage, and Westbrook left the arena without the aid of crutches. The Thunder reported the injury as a minor sprain and do not expect it to be a major cause for concern. The All-Star point guard wasn't in the lineup Monday against the Nuggets, but that has been attributed to the team's previous treatment plan to rest him during one of two games during a back-to-back. He should be back in action Tuesday against the Mavericks. Reggie Jackson will continue to start when Westbrook is out.

Fast Breaks

LaMarcus Aldridge: The Blazers continue to play without their All-Star as Aldridge recovers from a lower back contusion. He has missed five consecutive games and will make it six Monday against the Heat. He expects to play on the team's upcoming five-game East Coast road trip, but a precise return date has not been established. On the plus side, the time off has allowed him to rest his left groin strain that had limited his productivity. Portland's five-game schedule should provide a bit of insurance for those in weekly leagues, but it may be safer to keep him benched for one more week.

Jose Calderon: The Mavericks' point guard took an inadvertent elbow to the face Sunday in the team's overtime loss to the Nets. The injury occurred in the first minute of the game, and he was unable to return. Fortunately, the team feels the injury is not serious, and it did not require stitches. No facial fractures were discovered on X-ray, but the area did swell. The Mavs hope Calderon will be available to play Tuesday when they host Oklahoma City.

Xavier Henry: The Lakers' injury woes continue as Henry was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his wrist. The exact ligament that was torn was the scapholunate ligament that connects two carpal bones in the wrist. While surgery to fix the ligament will eventually be needed, Henry will attempt to play through the injury.

J.J. Hickson: Hickson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a loss to the Mavericks over the weekend. He becomes the third Denver player to require ACL surgery this season, joining Danilo Gallinari and Nate Robinson. The timing of Hickson's injury is unfortunate as it will now affect his 2013-14 campaign.

LeBron James: The King may be one of the most dominant players in the game, but several minor injuries have began to pile up. He missed a game last week with back spasms, a symptom of some underlying cause, and then turned his right ankle Sunday in a loss to the Pelicans. James isn't expected to miss time, but with the playoff picture coming into focus, don't be surprised if Miami elects to rest their superstar a game or two in the near future.

Steve Nash: The former two-time MVP made a brief return Friday but was unable to play Sunday after the symptoms associated with his nerve root irritation returned. He has missed a majority of the season with recurrent nerve complications stemming from a fractured fibula suffered last year. Nash will try to play Tuesday, but the 40-year old point guard remains an unreliable fantasy option.