This article is part of our Injury Analysis series.
This week's column is a first for me, as the NFL regular season extends into an 18th week. Navigating injuries and COVID-19 has proved challenging, but hopefully you are celebrating a fantasy championship or a week away from glory. Before we shift our focus to offseason recoveries and rehabs, let's look at the injuries influencing the last games of the regular season.
The 49ers may not have their starting quarterback in uniform for a critical contest against the Rams. Garoppolo did not play against the Texans due to a thumb injury sustained in Week 16. The exact injury diagnosed was a Grade 3 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and an accompanying avulsion fracture of the area. Basically, the ligament tore and pulled away a piece of the bone in the process. The UCL acts as the chief stabilizer for the base of thumb and sits on the inside aspect of the thumb, near the webbing of the thumb and second finger. UCL sprains are common in sports, particularly baseball. MLB MVPs Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have both torn the ligament at various points of their careers. NBA players including Chris Paul and Shaquille O'Neal also suffered the injury. Multiple NFL quarterbacks have missed extended time with comparable injuries including Jay Cutler and Drew Brees. In each of these infamous cases, surgery was deemed necessary to address the torn ligament. It seems likely Garoppolo eventually goes under the knife, but the team is hopeful he can at