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Injury Analysis: NFL Injury Updates

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.

DeMarco Murray
The Cowboys rookie will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a fractured right ankle and high ankle sprain against the Giants. The running back was taken down, forcing his foot outward in a direction known as eversion. The ligaments on the inside of the foot are stronger than their counterparts located on the outside of the foot. The ligament located here is known as the deltoid ligament and fans out in a triangular shape. This unique arrangement increases the ligament's strength to the point that the bone here often fractures before the ligament will fail.

Murray will need surgery and is headed to the injured reserve. For owners in keeper leagues you needn't be overly worried for next season. It's often said that a break can be better than a sprain and his impending surgery will insure the bone properly heals. The Cowboys are no strangers to this injury either as their star rookie from last year, Dez Bryant, suffered a similar injury at almost the exact same time. Bryant also needed surgery to repair his broke ankle and was able to participate in training camp and the preseason.

In the meantime, injury creates another opportunity for Felix Jones. Jones, ironically enough, lost the starting role after suffering a high ankle sprain of his own. Jones rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries and added six receptions for 31 yards after Murray exited. The Cowboys will play the Buccaneers Saturday night, a team currently surrendering 139.7 rushing yards a game and has allowed a league-worst 19 rushing touchdowns, making Jones a sneaky playoff addition.

Ben Roethlisberger
While Roethlisberger avoided a fracture, his left ankle remains tender and swollen after suffering a Grade I high ankle sprain against the Browns. The injury is the mildest grade for this type of injury but it remains more hampering than a normal lateral ankle sprain. We've seen several high ankle sprains sideline players for multiple weeks including Adrian Peterson, Kevin Smith, and Sam Bradford. Despite Roethlisberger's noted ability to shrug off injury, it's hard to imagine he will be 100 percent against the Niners, even with an extra day of preparation. Veteran Charlie Batch would takeover should Big Ben be inactive.

To complicate the issue, the Steelers offensive line is banged up. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey also has a high ankle sprain and his availability for Monday night is a question mark. If Pouncey were unable to go, the entire line would be affected as left guard Doug Legursky would relocate to center. A makeshift line could mean more scrambling for the Pittsburgh quarterback, not exactly something a QB with a bum ankle would welcome.

Greg Jennings
The Packers will continue their pursuit of perfection without a key weapon on offense after Jennings suffered a left knee sprain. A follow up MRI confirmed Jennings sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL), the same injury that is currently keeping Chicago's Matt Forte off the field. It sounds like Jennings injury is less severe than Forte's, meaning it is likely a Grade I sprain of the ligament. Fortunately, as I detailed last week with Forte, the MCL can heal without surgical intervention. The Packers feel Jennings will be sidelined for two to three weeks. However with a second Super Bowl win in mind, expect Green Bay to protect Jennings and hold him out for the remainder of the regular season. A talented group of receivers including James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Donald Driver are all capable of making sure Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will not falter down the stretch.

Jimmy Graham
Graham gave fantasy owners a scare after injuring himself in pregame warmups. The breakout tight end made an awkward catch and began suffering back spasms. Back spasms are often a byproduct of a painful cycle known as the pain-spasm cycle. An injury often causes pain. This pain then causes tension in the surrounding musculature that in kind causes spasm. Spasms increase pain which produces tension, which leads to more pain. Ending the cycle is possible using various tools including medication, heat and cold treatment, and physical therapy. However the main focus of the medical staff must be to locate and fix the primary cause of the injury to prevent the cycle from reoccurring. The Saints have scheduled a MRI in hopes of pinpointing the problem and Graham anticipates he will play Sunday against the Vikings. He did play through the pain in Week 14 and still managed five catches for 55 yards. Still scale back your expectations until the injury is no longer an issue.

Mark Ingram
The Saints running game is also facing injury issues, as Graham's teammate and former Heisman winner remains hobbled by a case of turf toe. Turf toe is simply a sprain of the ligaments surrounding the big toe but it's a particularly limiting injury. Turf toe limits an athlete's ability to accelerate and push off the hampered foot and can also produce problems with cutting. Ingram's size is problem since he places more weight through his feet. Compound this injury with his previous heel injury on the other foot and Ingram quite literally doesn't have a foot to stand on. Ingram remains a risky play given the injury and the New Orleans stable of running backs.

Turf Burns

Adrian Peterson: The Vikings running back continues to make progress in rehabilitation on his injured ankle and seems likely to play against the Saints.

Kevin Kolb, Matt Moore, and Colt McCoy: All three quarterbacks suffered head injuries in Week 14 and will undergo league-mandated testing before being allowed to return to play. The NFL concussion policy requires a player to take and pass a neurocognitive exam and receive clearance from an independent neurologist.

Matt Hasselbeck: Hasselbeck suffered a calf strain against the Saints and could miss this week's outing against the winless Colts. Rookie Jake Locker, who has looked impressive in spot duty, could receive the first start of his career.

Andre Johnson: Johnson's hamstring strain remains an issue and the receiver will have to get on the practice field for fantasy owners to have any confidence in him moving forward. With the Texans locked into the playoffs, it's hard to imagine they will put their top receiver at risk.

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