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Injury Analysis: Assessing the Early Training Camp Damage

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 first preseason games are on the horizon, and the injuries are beginning to mount. For unproven veterans or promising rookies, a setback due to injury can cripple their careers. In some situations, a minor injury to an established player can alter a depth chart while a major one can help solidify an order. Take Detroit for an example. Rookie Mikel Leshoure was poised to play a major role in the Lions backfield, but a torn Achilles' tendon has ended his season. The injury greatly improves the stock of second-year running back Jahvid Best, who it appears has overcome last season's turf toe problems.

DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice

With Felix Jones atop the depth chart and Marion Barber in a Bears uniform, the second spot in Dallas is up for grabs. However muscular injuries to both Murray and Choice have muddied the situation. Choice suffered a strained calf on the first day of practice and remains sidelined. Murray, a third-round selection in 2011 draft, strained a hamstring, failing to capitalize on the injury to Choice. Both players are expected to return to practice at the beginning of next week but have lost valuable time already. Undrafted running back Lonyae Miller has stepped up, impressing coaches with his elusiveness and pass-blocking abilities. The Cowboys will wait to make the final decision after Choice and Murray return, but it's definitely a battle worth monitoring. Remember Jones has had multiple injuries in the past, missing time with hamstring, toe, and knee issues. His injury risk is elevated enough to consider handcuffing him with whatever back manages to outlast the others.

Arian Foster

The NFL's leading rusher from last season hopes to prove his breakout 2010 was no fluke. Unfortunately his quest to prove his doubters wrong has gotten off to sluggish start as a hamstring strain has sidelined him indefinitely. While Foster is downplaying the severity of the injury, it's noteworthy since he's being selected with the first overall pick in most drafts. Hamstring strains for explosive backs are very problematic. The muscle group works concentrically and eccentrically to accelerate and decelerate the leg while running. Any limitation of the muscle is very detrimental. Furthermore because the hamstring is subjected to so many violent and explosive movements, it is easy to aggravate a preexisting injury. A setback in rehab often forces players to press the reset button on their recovery timelines, delaying their return to play. It's nice to see Foster playing it safe and informing the medical staff about this injury, unlike last year when he hid a meniscus injury from them for a majority of the season. He will continue to rest and rehabilitate under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer, Geoff Kaplan.

Andre Johnson

A strained hamstring has Houston's ground game out of action, but not even a compound finger dislocation can slow down its top aerial weapon. Johnson suffered a dislocated left index finger early last week but returned to practice over the weekend. It appears no bones were broken, and any serious ligament or muscle damage was avoided. Johnson should be fine and remains an elite option at receiver.

Darren McFadden

Oakland's lead back will be sidelined for the next few weeks with a fractured orbital bone. While it may seem gruesome, McFadden's injury isn't as bad as it sounds. The orbits of the skull are actually the cavity that surrounds the eyes and their muscles. Each orbit has four walls and an apex made up of eight various bones. While a serious injury known as a blowout fracture can occur to the orbit, the break suffered by McFadden is reportedly small and did not involve the eye. It is likely he sustained a small crack in his zygomatic bone (cheekbone). When he does return McFadden is expected to wear protective goggles. There may be an adjustment period while he gets used to the eyewear, but it shouldn't slow him down for the long term. For fantasy owners an injury of this kind is much better than any kind of lower extremity injury, especially for someone with an injury-plagued past like McFadden.

Jeremy Maclin

The illness that has kept the Eagles receiver out of practice thus far remains a mystery. Maclin suffered from "mono-like" symptoms in the spring and dropped several pounds as a result. He has yet to completely shake the symptoms and continues to undergo medical testing to determine the specific cause. The Eagles have stated the initial reports are positive, and reports that the illness is career or life threatening are unfounded. Still it's in Maclin's best interest to remain sidelined until the root of the problem is discovered. Viral infections, like mononucleosis (mono), affect organs and can cause them to become enlarged. These organs can than become susceptible to injury, particularly in a high impact sport like football. Hopefully the Eagles will be able to provide more information in the coming weeks but for now downgrade Maclin on your cheat-sheet.

David Garrard

Garrard aggravated a lower back injury and will not play in Jacksonville's preseason opener. Unfortunately for the veteran quarterback the back injury is becoming a recurring issue after it began bothering him last season. He never missed a game but was limited weekly in practice. Garrard admitted the lockout negatively effected how he would have normally prepared for the upcoming season. Without the guidance of the Jaguars' medical staff he was unable to take the proper steps in his preventative care. Garrard isn't the first quarterback to express similar frustrations. Indianapolis' Peyton Manning confessed his recovery from offseason neck surgery has been delayed by his inability to work with team medical professionals.

While the Jaguars may just be protecting Garrard, the injury will give rookie Blaine Gabbert a chance to make a case for the starting job. With plenty of preseason left, it's reasonable to assume Garrard will take the field in Week 1 but fantasy owners enticed by Garrard's career year in 2010 (28 total touchdowns) should look elsewhere for a starting quarterback for their squads.