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Injury Analysis: High-Risk, High-Reward Players

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.

Kenny Britt

Poised to make the next jump up the wide receiver hierarchy, Britt remains slowed by a hamstring problem. He initially injured his right hamstring in Week 8 of last season and was then held out for the next four weeks. He tried yoga in the offseason in an attempt to increase his flexibility, but the issue remains. He sat out the first portion of training camp and just began to participate in non-contact work, saying he feels close to 100 percent. Britt did not dress for the Titans' first preseason game.

Last week when talking about Arian Foster we discussed the multiple responsibilities of the hamstring muscle group. For a receiver the hamstring may even be more important because it is the driving force behind a quick burst off the line and allows the individual to gain space from a defender. The hamstring also is vital in the quick cuts as the receiver moves in-and-out of various routes. A significant hamstring strain can nag, particularly in speed-dependent positions. A gradual return to activity is the best course of treatment but often prolongs the time missed.

Unfortunately Britt's past is too troublesome to ignore. In addition to the hamstring issues, he has repeatedly shown up out-of-shape and also endured a groin injury in last year's season finale. Britt can still be a solid fantasy contributor but remains a high-risk, high-reward option.

Austin Collie

Collie is another wideout attempting to return from a recurring injury. The Colts receiver suffered three concussions at various points last season, including one that required him to be carried out on a stretcher. Collie enters the season wearing a specialized helmet equipped with a tinted visor. Dustin Fink, author of the Concussion Blog, along with SI's Will Carroll, has been investigating the specifics of the helmet, but the receiver remains tight-lipped about its details. Should the prototype prove effective, several other NFL players may turn to Collie and his advanced headgear.

While the helmet may help minimize the forces Collie's head and brain take in a collision, he remains at high risk for another serious head injury. Receivers and cornerbacks suffer multiple concussions at a higher frequency than any other position in football. Furthermore the effects of multiple concussions are cumulative, meaning the effects from each head injury must be considered as a whole. If concussed again, Collie could face a much steeper road to recovery than an individual suffering his first concussion. Adjust your rankings accordingly but like Britt, Collie remains a high-risk, high-reward fantasy weapon.

Plaxico Burress

A sprained left ankle has stalled Burress' return to the NFL. A recent MRI revealed no structural damage but confirmed the sprain. Fortunately for a player with a history of ankle problems, the new injury is to the opposite ankle. Given Burress' time away from the game a ligament injury is not surprising. Muscles and conditioning levels can be easily maintained with weights and simple cardiovascular activity. Ligaments, on the other hand, must be gradually placed through sports-specific activities in order to prepare for the vigorous stresses they must withstand. It is very difficult to simulate these actions in a non-football setting. Furthermore his mental awareness has diminished with this time off, and he must fine-tune his coordination skills. Expect Burress slowly to return to practice and for his body to progress as his proprioception (relative awareness of position) and kinesthesia (awareness with motion) improve. He shouldn't miss any regular season action and has a chance to emerge as a top red-zone weapon for Mark Sanchez.

Ryan Torain

A crowded backfield and a broken left hand are making things difficult for Torain. With the departure of Clinton Portis, Torain seemed to hold an edge to winning the starting job. However, the Redskins drafted Roy Helu and traded for Tim Hightower, giving the fourth-year back plenty of competition. Torain then suffered a fractured hand in the early days of training camp and ultimately needed four surgical screws to stabilize the break.

A broken hand can be particularly troubling for a running back. They use their hands to carry the ball, and any weakness caused by injury would increase the likelihood of fumbles. Furthermore, an injury of this kind could make Torain a liability in pass coverage, as he would be unable to use his hands to block properly. Both limitations would force Washington to keep Torain on the sideline, giving rise to Hightower or Helu.

Torain's initial timeline was 7-10 days, but he is visiting with a hand specialist Tuesday to obtain more information and perhaps a more specific route to recovery. Should the hand check out fine and allow Torain to assert himself back into the starting back equation, he could be a draft-day bargain. Any setbacks, and he should be significantly downgraded.

Chris Cooley

Torain's teammate visited a specialist as well, and it's a very infamous one. Cooley traveled to Alabama to meet with well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews for further evaluation on his troublesome left knee. Cooley underwent offseason knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and appeared ready to roll at the start of camp. Unfortunately, he aggravated the knee and has been forced to have it drained multiple times. Constant swelling is never a good sign. When the body suspects an injury has occurred, it sends interstitial fluid to the area to help protect it. The amount of fluid can be excessive and must be drained to ensure it does not negatively affect healthy tissue. While Dr. Andrews did not find any new structural damage, the injury will force Cooley to miss the majority, and possibly all, of preseason. The missed time and chronic edema definitely hurt Cooley's short-term value, as it appears likely to carry over into the regular season.