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Injury Analysis: Week 3 Injury Updates

Football is a violent sport. As the players improve in size and speed so too does the impact of their hits. Head and spine injuries are one of the hot topics in the game and the NFL is doing everything it can to not only help prevent catastrophic injuries from happening but also minimize the extent of the damage when they do occur. The concussion protocol has garnered the most headlines but a behind the scenes shift is taking place throughout the various levels of football to insure proper tackling technique is taught. Leading with the head is not the right way to bring down an opponent because it leaves the head, neck, and spine vulnerable to injury. A heads up take down with the arms ripping upward better aligns the spine and provides extra leverage for the defender. However even technique can give way to instinct and a player can naturally put themselves in a vulnerable position as was the case for New York's Ahmad Bradshaw.

Bradshaw was approaching the line on a simple run against Tampa and lowered his head in anticipation of a hit from Tampa linebacker Mason Foster. The subtle dip of the helmet caused the full force of Foster's hit down through Bradshaw's helmet, compressing his head, neck, and shoulders. Bradshaw left the game with a neck injury and ever returned. Fortunately x-rays taken were negative and the running back did not suffer a more significant injury. However he is not out of the woods just yet. A MRI was taken Monday and early reports suggest a neck sprain. However the Giants remain tight-lipped on details. Regardless neck injuries are particularly tricky and it would be difficult to envision Bradshaw playing in Week 3, especially since the Giants are facing a short week as they take on the Panthers in the Thursday night game. Fantasy owners need to invest heavily in Andre Brown, who received the bulk of the carries after Bradshaw left the game. He finished with 71 yards and a touchdown against Tampa and will now face a Carolina defense that is surrendering 146 rushing yards a game.

Aaron Hernandez
The Patriots' two-headed monster at tight end is suddenly down to one after Hernandez suffered an ankle injury against the Cardinals and is expected to miss several weeks. The injury was initially ruled a high ankle sprain, a more severe injury than the more common lateral ankle sprain. However after undergoing a MRI on Monday it seems the talk may have been premature. Hernandez is still expected to miss at least a month but the injury is no longer being classified as a high ankle sprain. There is a big difference and here's why.

A syndesmotic sprain, or high ankle sprain, is different because the location of the injury is different. In a high ankle sprain the damage occurs where the lower leg bones and the talus come together to form the ankle joint or mortise. This joint is known as the distal tibiofemoral joint. At this joint a strong ligament, the interosseous ligament, stretches across the joint to connect the two leg bones. Two additional ligaments, the anterior and posterior tibiofibular ligaments, aid in stabilizing the ankle mortise. A high ankle sprain usually occurs when the foot is forced upward and the lower leg is violently twisted. The jarring force causes excessive stretching and disruption of the aforementioned ligaments.

Lateral, or inversion, ankle sprains occur when the foot is forced inward in a direction known as inversion, spraining the three ligaments located on the outside of the foot. These ligaments connect the fibula to the talus and calcaneus and provide support during lateral movement. An accompanying muscle strain often occurs but a lateral ankle sprain is considered less severe. Generally high ankle sprains take longer to heal than lateral ankle sprains but it all depends on the extent of the damage. If the Patriots are already preparing to be without Hernandez for a considerable stretch than it is likely the sprain is a least a Grade II sprain.

Kellen Winslow has been signed and will play alongside fantasy darling Rob Gronkowski for the immediate future. Winslow's fantasy value remains a bit cloudy but the injury could force the Patriots to reincorporate the struggling Wes Welker into their offense.

Matt Forte
Like Hernandez, early reports suggested the Bears running back was also the victim of a high ankle sprain after he was forced from a loss to the Packers. However coach Lovie Smith refuted those reports and said Forte's sprain is not to the tib-fib joint. Forte's injury is believed to be a lateral ankle sprain. The Bears have not provided a timeline for Forte, much to the chagrin of fantasy owners. Monitor his workload throughout the week but I would bet against the Pro Bowler playing against the Rams. Michael Bush would start in the backfield with the recently resigned Kahlil Bell serving as the primary backup.

Turf Burns
Jamaal Charles: Charles aggravated his surgically repaired left knee on Sunday, though details remain vague. Peyton Hillis remains a solid speculative add for the immediate future.

Fred Davis: The Redskins tight end suffered a concussion in the team's loss to St. Louis and will enter the NFL concussion protocol before returning to play.
Blaine Gabbert: The second-year quarterback exited his team's loss to Houston prematurely after suffering a glute injury but it doesn't sound like he will miss any time. However the glues play a key role in hip motion and have an indirect role in knee movement so it's a situation worth monitoring.

Steven Jackson: The Rams are publically calling Jackson's injury a groin strain but it seems probable the unsportsmanlike conduct flag he garnered is also in play. Watch his availability in practice to see if he is limited at all. If he does miss any time you'll want to find a suitable backup, especially when you factor in his past problems with lower leg muscle injuries.

Washington defense: The Redskins D took a huge hit Monday as both Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker were ruled out for the remainder of the season. Orakpo suffered a torn pectoral muscle while Carriker tore the quadriceps tendon in his right knee. The Redskins defense is already surrendering 31 points a game and the absence of these two, along with several other defensive starters, will not help rectify the situation.

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