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Injury Analysis: Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster

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.

Aaron Rodgers
The Packers loss to the Bears on Monday was amplified with the loss of their Pro Bowl quarterback. Rodgers suffered a shoulder injury on the team's opening drive and would not return. The injury occurred to his non-throwing shoulder when his left arm was driven into the ground by a Chicago defender. The weight of the defender compounded the fall, sending a high amount of force through Rodgers' body. The hit was the perfect mechanism of injury for a clavicle injury, confirmed when an x-ray revealed a tiny fracture in the bone. Further testing will be done to determine if any other injuries occurred as the collarbone plays a vital role in two different joints of the shoulder.

The shoulder complex is comprised of four individual articulations. The sternoclavicular (SC) joint is the only connection between the arm and the trunk of the body and is located where the clavicle (collarbone) joins the manubrium of the sternum (breastbone). The collarbone continues along the shoulder until it meets the acromion of the shoulder blade, forming the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. Here the collarbone serves as a strut for the shoulder, creating a pivot point that allows for a high degree of motion. Injuries to either joint would complicate Rodgers' recovery and delay his return to play.

If the fracture is an isolated injury then the nature of the break comes into play. If the bone did not shift and remains non-displaced, Rodgers should avoid surgery and would simply need to let the bone heal. If a significant displacement has occurred, a pin would likely be inserted to insure proper healing. Unfortunately this type of injury would require a longer recovery window. The reports suggesting the fracture is small are a good sign the break did not displace, but keep in mind swelling at the time of the injury effected the initial evaluation. A MRI will be performed to determine the true extent of the damage.

Though the early timeline has been reported as three weeks, it's hard to buy into that belief with so much information yet to be determined. In the 2010 season Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered a similar injury in the same manner. The initial diagnosis was six to eight weeks but the broken left collarbone ultimately cost Romo the final 10 games of the year. As Rodgers owners anxiously await the final diagnosis, they should prepare to be without the former MVP for at least the next few weeks. Veteran Seneca Wallace is the only other quarterback option on the Green Bay roster though several names will likely emerge in the coming days. Wallace looked uncomfortable at times on Monday though a full practice may help improve his effectiveness. He's worth a speculative add but shouldn't be counted on to recreate Rodgers' numbers. The wide receivers of the Packers should also be downgraded for the immediate future as they will need time to develop a rapport with their new signal-caller.

Arian Foster
Foster suffered yet another injury Sunday, leaving the team's loss to the Colts. After nursing a hamstring strain for the previous two weeks, Foster suffered a back injury early in the first quarter and did not return. While the two injuries may appear to be unrelated, the muscles of the lower extremity and back are intricately connected.

The muscles of the back must work harmoniously with the muscles of the leg to insure fluid movement and support. If one of these muscle groups is over or under worked it can easily generate a cascade of muscle imbalances that can cause pain and loss of function. For example if the hip flexors are tight, the hamstrings can become overworked and vulnerable to strain. An overactive hamstring can lead to an underactive gluteus maximus, which then has a carry over effect into the SI joint and other muscles of the back.

Knowing this information it is easy to see how one minor issue can lead to a myriad of problems. For Foster, the issue may not even be a true hamstring problem but another imbalance somewhere else in the leg. Remember he entered the season with question surrounding a previously strained calf. The Texans have to undercover the root of his problems before he will ever be a healthy and reliable option at running back.

Given the growing list of problems Foster is quickly becoming a risky fantasy play. Even if he is cleared to participate it's hard to believe he will be able to shoulder a heavy workload. Ben Tate, Foster's backfield teammate, has injury concerns of his own as he manages broken ribs. Tate reported a high degree of pain and soreness in his four fractured ribs following Sunday's performance though he hopes to play in Week 10 against Arizona.

Turf Burns

Jay Cutler: The Bears believe Cutler could return from a groin injury in Week 10 against the Lions, three weeks ahead of schedule. The Bears face a fantasy friendly schedule and Cutler would be a nice pickup if you are scrambling to fill a hole left by Rodgers or another limited quarterback.

Doug Martin: The Buccaneers are optimistic Martin could return from a partially torn labrum for this week's matchup against the Dolphins. However the game isn't until Monday night making him a sizeable gamble. Monitor his availability in practice to get a better gauge on if he will play.

Darren McFadden: The Raiders once again finished a game with McFadden on the sidelines. The running back aggravated his previously strained hamstring and could be in line to miss a significant stretch of time. Even when he does return, it is hard to have much confidence in the consistently limited back.

Kyle Rudolph: The Vikings tight end will miss at least a month after suffering a broken foot in Dallas. John Carlson will likely take his place in the lineup.

Shane Vereen: The Patriots welcomed Vereen back to practice, though he won't be eligible to return until Week 11. The running back performed very well in Week 1 before suffering a small fracture in his wrist. The bone appears healed and shouldn't affect his productivity moving forward. Scoop him up if he's available, as he should play a big part of New England's offense.

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