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Injury Analysis: Can You Count on McFadden?

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.

Darren McFadden
Since entering the league in 2008, McFadden has been a constant source of frustration for fantasy owners. He's proven he's an elite talent but injuries, including turf toe, a knee injury, and last season's debilitating Lisfranc sprain, have limited throughout his brief four-year career. He has missed at least three games in every season and missed a career worst nine games last season after rushing for 610 yards in Oakland's first six games. He had a productive offseason and the early returns appear promising as McFadden looked explosive and effective in Oakland's first preseason action. He totaled 38 yards on three plays during the team's opening drive in a loss to Dallas. While he is once again flashing that potential that makes him so intriguing to fantasy owners, history does not bode well for McFadden. Let's take a look at the Lisfranc injury to understand why.

The midfoot consists of five tarsometatarsal joints that are formed where the metatarsal bones of the foot meet with four very specific bones known as the cuboid and the three cuneiforms. The linchpin of these five articulations is the second joint that is stabilized by a strong ligament known as Lisfranc's ligament. Like any other ligament, the Lisfranc's ligament can be sprained and in some extreme cases dislocate or avulse a small piece of bone creating a fracture. McFadden was fortunate to avoid a fracture because an injury of that nature often requires surgery (see Houston's Matt Schaub).

Overall the injury is fairly uncommon but seems more prevalent in the NFL, especially in running backs. Notable backs have suffered Lisfranc injuries in recent years including Larry Johnson, Brian Westbrook, and Ronnie Brown. Brown and Johnson never truly bounced back while Westbrook had two productive seasons with Philadelphia following his injury. Though McFadden's injury appears more similar to Westbrook's than Brown or Johnson's, it obviously raises some long-term concerns. Given the nature of the injury and McFadden's injury-riddled past, I'm not comfortable ranking him as a top five back. However, should you think the reward outweighs the risk, be sure to follow up your McFadden selection with a dependable, proven option at running back.

Michael Vick
McFadden's laundry list of injuries is nothing compared to Vick's extensive litany of bumps and bruises. Vick has endured a concussion, broken ribs, a bone contusion in his hand, a quadriceps contusion, and torn rib cartilage in the last two seasons alone. Prior to that, Vick suffered through a right knee sprain, strains to his groin and hamstring, a left shoulder sprain, and a fractured right fibula. His latest setback came in Philadelphia's preseason win over Pittsburgh as he slammed his left thumb on to the helmet of an opposing player. He left the game but fortunately the x-rays taken on the injured digit came back negative. He continues to deal with swelling and pain in the joint but has returned to practice. The Eagles are officially listing the injury as a contusion and do not expect their quarterback to miss any significant time. While it appears Vick has avoided any serious injury, the newest injury is a reminder just how fragile he has been throughout his career. His style of play lends itself to injury and, when coupled with his past, makes him an extremely high-risk player. Draft with caution and cross your fingers that he can make it to Week 1 without another injury.

Brian Urlacher
The monster in the middle of Chicago's vaunted defense will miss significant time after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He underwent a debridement procedure to remove loose bodies likely attributed to a knee injury suffered in January. In the2011 regular season finale Urlacher suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and spent the offseason rehabbing the area. The ligaments appear to have healed but the damage to the neighboring tissue appears to still be an issue. The Bears are hopeful he can play in Week 1 but I think the injury carries over into the regular season. It could also remain a problem for the rest of the year as the area will need constant maintenance. His value in IDP drafts drastically drops and the Bears defense should take a hit too, making them an early season gamble. The Bears travel to Lambeau Field in Week 2 to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and it's hard to have much confidence in that defense especially if Urlacher is sidelined.

Turf Burns
Adrian Peterson: Peterson has been activated from the PUP list and returned to Vikings practice over the weekend. He maintains he will be ready for Week 1 after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee last season.

Mikel Leshoure: Leshoure has returned to practice after a right hamstring strain left him limited to start camp. The hamstring strain is an issue but I'm more concerned about how he bounces back from a torn Achilles that ended his rookie season before it even started. History suggests we should expect a dip in speed and mobility.

Isaac Redman: Pittsburgh has scheduled a MRI for Redman's injured groin after pain and limitation persists. Redman is the starting running back with Rashard Mendenhall still recovering from ACL surgery and expected to start the season on the PUP. Keep a close eye on the situation before committing to Redman.

Torrey Smith: The emerging Baltimore receiver has been limited by an ankle sprain suffered in last week's preseason action. He has practiced twice since suffering the injury but did not take the field on Tuesday. The sprain is considered minor and I don't anticipate it being an issue during the regular season.

Jason Witten: Tony Romo's favorite target is expected to miss at least three weeks after suffering a spleen injury in Dallas' first preseason game. Further testing will be conducted to determine the extent of the injury but early reports suggest the organ did not rupture. Witten should be able to return prior to Week 1 unless surgery is required to repair any related damage. Surgery will sideline the tight end indefinitely.

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