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Injury Analysis: Larry Fitzgerald and the Concussion Protocol

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.

Larry Fitzgerald
The Cardinals receiver sustained a concussion Sunday attempting to recover an onside kick. Fitzgerald suffered balance and equilibrium issues following the hit and experienced minor amnesia surrounding the details of the play in which he was injured. These symptoms are normal following a concussion and Fitzgerald was already reporting an improvement Monday. He has yet to complete the league mandated protocol but it at least appears he is making progress in recovery. He will be a game-time decision even if he is cleared as symptoms can occasionally return during pre-game warm-ups.

Vikings RBs
Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were spectators for Matt Asiata's three touchdown performance against the Eagles on Sunday. The touchdowns helped overshadow an underwhelming day for the third-string back who totaled just 51 yards on 30 carries. However both Peterson and Gerhart hope to return to practice this week and should be available against the Bengals. Peterson, out with a midfoot sprain, felt he was healthy enough to play but the Vikings medical staff took the conservative approach and kept him off the field. Midfoot sprains can be tricky to manage but, with the Lisfranc joint intact and stable, it appears Peterson's absence will be limited to one game. While he was missed in Week 15, the time off allowed Peterson's lingering groin strain additional time to heal. Look for AD to be back in action and close to 100 percent. Gerhart's hamstring injury also appears to be behind him and he is poised to serve as Peterson's primary backup, bumping Asiata back down the depth chart.

Victor Cruz
The Giants receiver could be done for the remainder of the season after suffering a sprained knee and concussion in the team's loss to the Seahawks. Cruz leapt for a catch but came crashing to the turf, his head hitting the ground. In these types of plays there are two possible mechanisms of injury. The first is the direct impact of his head hitting the ground. When an injury occurs on the side of the impacting force it is considered a coup injury. However often when the head hits a fixed object the brain moves within the cranial cavity and can strike the opposite side of the skull, causing a coutrecoup injury. These injuries can appear independently or in unison. Cruz will be placed into the NFL concussion protocol regardless of the exact cause of the concussion. However if a coup countercoup injury occurred and his symptoms are more significant, the Giants could me motivated to shut Cruz down for the final two games of the year. The knee sprain complicates the issue, making it more likely we've seen Cruz for the last time this season.

Maurice Jones-Drew
The Jacksonville running back was unable to play Sunday after his strained hamstring did not respond well during pregame warm-ups. The hamstrings are considered a two-joint muscle and controls motion at both the hips and knee. The muscle group works in conjunction with the quadriceps and to accelerate and decelerate the leg during running. MJD is a smaller back with extremely strong legs. Ensuring his hamstrings are fully functional and strong is important to insure performance and help prevent a more significant injury, like a knee sprain, from occurring. With free agency on the horizon, Jones-Drew has incentive to continue playing despite Jacksonville's poor overall record. If the injury does not improve in time for Week 16, Jordan Todman would once again get the call. Todman performed admirably against the Bulls rushing for 109 on 25 carries.

Turf Burns
Donald Brown: The Colts running back suffered a "stinger" against the Texans after just five touches. A stinger occurs when a bundle of nerves in the shoulder, known as the brachial plexus, become overstretched. The resulting symptoms can include weakness and numbness in the arm as well as a burning or stinging sensation. Stingers can happen in varying degrees of severity and fortunately Brown's injury appears to be minor and the Colts are listing him as day-to-day. This is a situation worth monitoring as the week progresses but it's worth remembering Indianapolis is slated to face a tough KC defense.

Case Keenum: Keenum emerged from the worst start of his young career with a sprained right thumb that will require a MRI. The results of the MRI should determine his availability for Sunday's matchup against the Broncos. However, even if he were cleared to play I'd advise looking for a more suitable option. The thumb will likely still be limited, affecting his grip on the football and his ability to throw with velocity and accuracy.

Bruce Miller: The San Francisco fullback has been lost for the season after suffering a broken scapula. His statistics don't make a direct impact in fantasy but his absence will have a trickledown effect on Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. Miller is a blocking back that not only protects Kaepernick but also helps clears a path for Gore. Those two remain must starts but their jobs just got a lot more difficult.

Cam Newton: Newton's toe injury is considered minor and will not affect his availability when the Panthers host the Saints on Sunday. The injury appears to be a contusion and not a dreaded case of turf toe. Turf toe is an extremely painful injury and would have been limiting for a mobile quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers: It's more of the same for Rodgers as the Packers began Week 16 preparation with Matt Flynn at quarterback. Rodgers has yet to receive medical clearance and has now missed six straight games with a broken collarbone. The bone's ability to absorb contact remains the primary concern. If the medical staff feels he can withstand a hit than Rodgers will be back in action Sunday against Pittsburgh.

Cecil Shorts: Shorts has all but been ruled out for the remainder of the season as his groin injury continues to be a problem. He's facing offseason surgery and shouldn't be counted on for the final two weeks of the year.

Wes Welker: Welker has yet to return to practice and remains a question mark after suffering two concussions in four weeks. The effects of multiple concussions are cumulative so it is not surprising to see Welker still sidelined. He will look to complete the necessary protocols and remains a risky play moving forward.

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