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Injury Analysis: Jeff Stotts Breaks Down the Key Injuries

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.

The offseason isn't always a vacation for players in the NFL. Athletes often spend more time lying on an operating table than lying on a beach, undergoing major and minor surgeries to save various joints of the body. These surgeries will often help a nagging injury and can add several more seasons onto a player's career. The timing of the surgery is key so that a player can successfully complete treatment and rehab in order to be ready for training camp and the impending season.

Houston tight end Owen Daniels spent his summer rehabbing and recently was given the green light to return to action following reconstructive surgery on his damaged anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Daniels injured his right knee in Week 8 and underwent surgery in late November. Renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery and recently cleared the former Pro Bowler to begin running and cutting, despite the fact that Daniels had developed a stress fracture in his patella during rehab. The two agreed on a conservative course of action and fortunately the gamble paid off. Daniels will begin practicing on Monday, and playing in Houston's offense could make him a top-tier tight end with a cheap price tag. However, keep in mind he has undergone several ACL operations, and investing in Daniels comes with an inherent risk.

The success story of Daniels makes the Sidney Rice situation a little harder to swallow. Rice recently underwent hip surgery to repair an injury originally sustained in the NFC Championship. Rice spent his offseason visiting a specialist that all hinted at surgery but agreed a conservative course of treatment could allow for the injury to heal over time. However, the plan backfired and Rice entered training camp admitting his hip wasn't 100 percent. He attempted to play through the pain but instead elected to undergo the arthroscopic procedure after returning to the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. Details surrounding the specifics of the surgery have been vague, but it's believed he underwent a clean-up procedure.

The primary joint in the hip is known as the acetabulofemoral (AF) joint. The AF joint is of the ball-and-socket variety, similar to the shoulder, and resembles a golf ball sitting on a tee. The head of the femur (the golf ball) sits in the acetabulum of the pelvis (the tee) forming the articulation. The ball (head of the femur) can freely pivot on the tee (acetabulum) allowing for a large degree of motion. To insure the ball remains on the tee but still has freedom to move, a fibrocartilaginous ring known as the labrum deepens the acetabulum. Overall the labrum and neighboring ligaments and musculature work together to stabilize the hip. However, occasionally an injury will occurs that violently jars the femoral head, resulting in a torn labrum or floating bodies of cartilage. Significant labral tears are very painful and can lead to chronic instability in the hip.

Rice's surgery was likely intended to remove any loose bodies floating in the socket of the AF joint and improve the integrity of the femoral head. If any labral damage was detected it was repaired and as a result the stability of the joint was improved. He is expected to be out at least eight weeks but has already begun a rigorous rehab with hopes of returning to help the Vikings and fantasy teams down the stretch. However the timing of the surgery is odd and equally frustrating, particularly for owners who had already invested a high pick on Rice. Miami wideout Brandon Marshall suffered a similar injury and elected to undergo surgery early in the offseason. Marshall was able to use the off-months to rehab and has looked solid in preseason. Rice could have easily undergone the procedure following Minnesota's playoff exit and been ready to go for the entire season. Instead we will have to wait to see if he can build on last year's breakout season in which he caught 83 passes for 1312 yards and eight touchdowns.

Preseason action has been particularly rough on wide receivers. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald was sidelined for Arizona's exhibition game against the Titans following a sprained medical collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee suffered in the preseason opener. As previously discussed with Dallas' Kyle Kosier, the MCL is a primary stabilizer of the knee during lateral movement. The MCL is particularly important for a receiver while making cuts during route running or while avoiding a tackle. Fitz has already begun jogging and may be available for the preseason finale. While it would normally be difficult to imagine the Cardinals risking their primary playmaker, they need Fitzgerald to gets reps with Derek Anderson and Matt Leinart. Either QB could lock down the starting quarterback job if he built a solid rapport with Fitzgerald.

Oakland wide receiver Chaz Schilens will be out for several weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. A troublesome left foot, which ultimately required offseason surgery, limited Schilens for the first half of last season and may have contributed to his latest injury. Even if Schilens is able to return prior to the season opener, biomechanically there is major cause for concern. You should drop him in all drafts.

Yet another wide receiver joins the long list of injured players as St. Louis' Donnie Avery has suffered what the team is calling a "significant" injury to his right knee. Avery was injured while running a deep route. He jumped in an attempt to make the catch and as he came down, his right foot planted into the turf, violently placing a valgus stress through his knee. This force is a standard mechanism for an MCL injury and may have caused damage to the ACL and/or the medial meniscus. Expect Avery to undergo a MRI in the near future to determine the extent of the damage. Unfortunately, the way the Rams are talking it's likely he is out for a substantial amount of time.