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Rash of Head Injuries May Force the NFL's Hand: Week 6 Injury Analysis

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 NFL will crack down on head-on hits and could begin suspending players who deliver what is deemed a devastating blow. The decision comes on the heels of a violent Week 6 in which several players including Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs, Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson, and Jacksonville's David Garrard exited early with concussions following helmet-to-helmet collisions. Detroit linebacker Zack Follett was also involved in a scary helmet-to-helmet incident that required Follett to be removed from the field on a stretcher. Luckily CT scans and MRIs came back negative and Follett had feeling and movement in all his extremities. While the injuries and the NFL's concussion policy has been maddening for fantasy owners, it is a sobering reminder it is just a game and the health and well-being of the players is what is most important.

The Eagles are expected be without Jackson for their upcoming game against the Titans. Jackson suffered a "severe" concussion in the second quarter of the team's win over Atlanta. The speedy receiver suffered memory loss known as retrograde amnesia, meaning Jackson was unable to recall events that occurred immediately before the collision, specifically the play in which he was injured. The concussion is Jackson's second in the last 11 months and it seems likely Philadelphia will take advantage of their upcoming Week 8 bye to rest him. Receivers Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant will lineup as the primary receivers for quarterback Kevin Kolb, who continues to start as Michael Vick recovers from a rib cartilage injury.

San Diego receiver Malcolm Floyd is unlikely to suit up in Week 7 when the Chargers host the Patriots. Floyd suffered a strained hamstring in San Diego's loss to St. Louis and while it is not as serious as initially feared, head coach Norv Tuner does not expect him to play. The hamstrings are muscle groups primarily responsible for flexing or bending the knee. The hamstring is an important muscle to wide receivers based on its role in running and accelerating. It slows the leg as it extends backwards and also aids in the beginning of hip motion from a standstill position, like when a receiver is attempting to come off the line of scrimmage on the snap. Floyd hopes to return in Week 8 when the Titans visit San Diego. Veteran Patrick Crayton will become the primary receiver and could be a decent fill-in for Week 7.

Floyd's teammate tight end Antonio Gates is also banged up and left the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis wearing a protective walking boot on his left foot. What was originally believed to be an ankle injury is now being called a sprained toe and the Chargers are optimistic he will be ready to go by Sunday. However keep in mind Gates suffered a dislocated toe on this same foot in a 2008 playoff game that ultimately required offseason surgery. The surgery repaired a tear in the plantar plate and forced Gates to rest for almost six months. The Chargers insist the injuries are not related but it does complicate the situation. Monitor Gates throughout the week but the early reports lean toward him being available.

Tennessee quarterback Vince Young was off to another hot start completing three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown on Monday night. However he mishandled a snap and fumbled, injuring both his left knee and ankle in the resulting pileup. Both injuries are sprains, meaning the damage occurred to ligaments in the respective joints. Fortunately neither sprain appears severe and Young even went as far to say he could have returned to action Monday night if needed. Kerry Collins replaced Young in the game and would remain the starter if Young is unable to play this week.

Several teams, including the Lions and Colts, will not take the field this Sunday but instead use a Week 7 bye to rest and rehab ailing players. Detroit will welcome back their starting quarterback as Matthew Stafford is expected to play in Week 8. Stafford suffered a sprained acromioclavicular (AC) joint in his throwing shoulder in Week 1. The AC joint is where the clavicle, or collarbone, meets the scapula, or shoulder blade, at a bony process known as the acormion. Two ligaments, the acromioclavicular and coracoclavicular ligaments, connect these bones together and are sprained when the tip of the acromion is forced downward following a direct blow. A sprained AC joint can create an instability in the shoulder complex and limit the range of motion for the athlete. It is a considerable issue for a quarterback particularly in his throwing arm. Expect Stafford to wear additional padding to protect the area and aid in stabilization. Fantasy owners should lower their expectations for the first few weeks as Stafford readjusts to the speed of the game.

The timing of Stafford's impending return could not be better as backup quarterback Shaun Hill underwent surgery on Monday to repair a fractured forearm suffered late in the second quarter of the Lions' loss to the Giants. Fortunately the break occurred in his non-throwing arm and he could be back at some point this season. Hill filled in admirably for Detroit throwing for 1,301 yards and nine touchdowns but his fantasy value plummets with the injury and Stafford's return.

The Colts hope the bye will allow running back Joseph Addai to heal an injured shoulder. Addai was in the middle of his best performance of the season, rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown before he injured his left shoulder in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Redskins. Details surrounding the injury have been limited but have suggested the shoulder did not suffer any structural damage. Shoulder injuries have plagued Addai throughout the year as a right neck and shoulder issue has limited his practice time and production. Fantasy owners will be forced to look elsewhere due to the bye and should consider adding a running back with a favorable matchup in Week 8 as insurance. Addai's backfield mate Donald Brown has not played the last two weeks and remains limited with a hamstring strain.

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