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Injury Analysis: Cutler's Brief Return

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.

Jay Cutler
The Bears quarterback made an early return from a groin strain that was initially expected to sideline him for at least four weeks. However the early return was brief as Cutler sustained a high ankle sprain in the team's loss to Detroit and is once again slated to miss a substantial amount of time. It was difficult to determine when exactly the injury occurred but there is a chance his still healing groin injury played a small role. If the groin is unable to properly carry out its normal function, the other muscles of the leg can become overworked and fatigued. As a result, his ankle stabilizers may not have been able to help support the injured joint and could not help prevent or minimize the damage that occurred with the sprain. The situation is similar to Falcons receiver Roddy White but in reverse. White was battling a high ankle sprain sustained in camp before suffering a hamstring strain that could have easily been linked to the initial injury.

High ankle sprains generally require a longer recovery period and Chicago is once again preparing to proceed without their starting quarterback. Josh McCown will replace Cutler and has shown he's a capable fantasy option. The early estimate on Cutler is four weeks so carefully plan accordingly.

Arian Foster
The Texans will be without Foster for the remainder of the season after he opted for surgery on the ruptured disc in his lower back. The injury has been a problem for some time but recent visits to several back specialists led to the season-ending decision.

Between each vertebrae of the spine sits a disc that serves as shock absorber for the rigorous stress applied on and through the back. Each disc is comprised of an outer ring of fibrocartilage called the annulus fibrosus. In the middles sits the nucleus pulposus, a softer, semi-fluid center. Imagine the disc as a jelly donut. The baked dough (annulus fibrosus) is rigid and allows the pastry to sit on a plate without the jelly filling (the pulposus) spilling out. However if enough pressure is applied to the donut, the dough will succumb to the stress and jelly will ultimately spill out. This is similar to what happens to a vertebral disc if the back is compressed or twisted. The nucleus pulposus will bulge or herniated out of the disc and begin impinging on the nearby nerve roots. The result can create pain and weakness in the area as well as into the extremities.

The bulging piece of disc will likely be removed in a procedure known as a discetomy performed by Dr. Robert Watkins. Watkins has performed this procedure on an impressive list of clients including Rob Gronkowski, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets. Dr. Watkins also performed Peyton Manning's neck surgery though Foster's recovery will not be as extensive. Look for him to begin rehab shortly after surgery with an emphasis on core stability. A return to football-related activities is possible after 12 weeks though the Texans have no reason to rush Foster back. He should be available for training camp barring any setbacks.

Peyton Manning
Like Cutler, the Broncos quarterback is dealing with an ankle injury following the team's win over the Chargers. A MRI performed Monday showed no new damage to a high ankle sprain sustained in mid-October against the Jaguars. Manning reported feeling sore following Sunday's game and will likely be a limited participant in practice. However the former MVP has been unstoppable this season throwing for 33 touchdowns to just six interceptions, including 11 touchdowns in the three weeks since the initial injury occurred. Keep him in your lineups and hope the ankle continues to hold up.

Turf Burns

Dez Bryant: Bryant is playing through a back injury that the Cowboys insist is not a disc problem. However the wideout received an epidural late last week, suggesting the injury is more than just a muscle issue. Epidurals are generally utilized when there is accompanying nerve root involvement and not just a mild muscle strain. The Cowboys enter the bye week at a perfect time, allowing Bryant and the rest of the team to tend to their various injuries.

Percy Harvin: The Seahawks will likely welcome Harvin back to the field Sunday against his former team the Vikings. Harvin, out since undergoing hip surgery, was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list Monday. Give him time to shake some rust off but he's worth a speculative add.

Mike James: James will join teammate Doug Martin on the injured reserve after he sustained an ankle fracture in Monday's win over Miami. Brian Leonard will take over as the feature back in Tampa Bay.

Steve Johnson: The Bills receiver remains limited by a painful groin strain and isn't expected to do much in practice this week. He will likely be a game-time decision but it's probably wise to look elsewhere this week.

Jake Locker: The Titans quarterback will see his season end due to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. It has not yet been determined if surgery will be required though it seems likely. Injuries have limited Locker from becoming the reliable quarterback Tennessee had hoped he would be when they drafted him out of the University of Washington.

Shane Vereen: Vereen will be eligible to return this week against the Panthers after suffering a fractured wrist in Week 1. He has been practicing with the team and would be a big addition to the New England offense. Vereen racked up 159 total yards in his lone game this season and will have added value in PPR leagues. The Patriots play Monday night making him a bit of a gamble this week but he is a must-add in all formats.

Seneca Wallace: Starting for the injured Aaron Rodgers, Wallace's time as the starter lasted less than a quarter as he suffered a groin injury. The injury is significant enough to send him to the IR, ending his season. Scott Tolzien will start against the Giants this week with recently signed Matt Flynn serving as his backup.

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