Monday Injury Debriefing

We could finally have a week where more of the league’s stars are returning than recovering, but there are a handful of critical injuries yesterday to monitor this week.

Matt Forte injured his right ankle in the third quarter yesterday. His body twisted back and around his lower leg, a mechanism that often leads to syndesmotic (high ankle) sprains and sometimes lower leg fractures. The Bears didn’t discuss the extent of Forte’s injury last night and Lovie Smith didn’t give any hints as to how serious the team feared the injury may be. It may be a good sign that there haven’t been any leaks to the local or national media suggesting a long term injury, but we’ll know more after the MRI today. For now, consider Forte questionable at best for Week 13 and no lock to return quickly.

Chris Mortenson reported this weekend that Ben Roethlisberger had been cleared to do light throwing and increase his range of motion activities this week. Don’t jump to the conclusion that Roethlisberger has been cleared for contact, however, or that he’s a lock to play in Week 13. There are two things working against Roethlisberger’s return. This Sunday will be just three weeks after his rib subluxation. Though there’s no recent precedent for this injury and Roethlisberger has demonstrated well above-average recovery times in the past, three weeks is on the very edge of optimistic expectation for healing of the joint Roethlisberger has injured. It’s also an injury that will be very tough to splint, pad and harness to prevent re-injury and possible damage to vital nearby structures. The injury will also be stressed by his overhead throwing motion. Having just shed his sling a few days ago, Roethlisberger will have to overcome pain and range of motion issues to throw effectively. I wouldn’t necessarily bet against Roethlisberger returning this week, but it’s not the lock some in the media seem to be suggesting.

LeSean McCoy was still fighting multiple neurologic symptoms on Saturday, five days after his concussion. I consider any player still having symptoms 48-72 hours after his head injury to be out indefinitely, as there’s no standard expectation for when persistent symptoms may resolve. It’s possible that McCoy’s symptoms will have completely resolved by today and he’ll progress through the return-to-play algorithm in time to play in Week 13, but it’s highly unlikely. And until there is a positive report on McCoy’s status, consider Week 14 in doubt as well.

Percy Harvin could be much closer to returning this week, but his 3+ week absence illustrates something I’ve been writing about frequently this season. It’s no lock that players with a low ankle sprain will return more quickly than a player with a syndesmotic sprain. Early in his recovery period, Harvin said that he sprained three ligaments in his ankle. The force required to injure those ligaments generally means that one ligament sprain was a high grade injury. Though it was good news last week that Harvin’s swelling had mostly resolved, ongoing pain and tenderness suggested the healing process was ongoing. Best case scenario for Harvin is likely limited practice reps this week and a less than usual workload in Week 13.

The Packers expect Greg Jennings to return in Week 13. He’ll be a little over four weeks removed from his abdominal surgery by game time, which was well within the expectation given by his surgeon. Last week’s limited practices should prepare him for full practice participation this week and hopefully help him avoid any re-conditioning injuries as he returns to game shape. Jennings may be able to return to his usual number of snaps immediately, but the emergence of Randall Cobb may result in fewer than his usual targets.

This is a big week for DeMarco Murray, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden. Murray and Jones-Drew have yet to be cleared for football-related activities, but both hope to be this week. Murray has been a little ahead of Jones-Drew in his recovery thus far, but the gap has narrowed as Murray has been unable to pass strength and range-of-motion tests despite being cleared to weight bear for weeks. Neither player is a good bet to return to a full game-time workload until at least Week 14. McFadden has had three weeks of rest and rehab now and should be on the verge of returning from his syndesmotic sprain. It may also take him at least a week to get back into football condition.

Andre Brown broke his left fibula last night. That’s the smaller bone in your lower leg and responsible for only a fraction of weight-bearing in the lower leg – which is why you saw Brown able to try to walk his injury off on the sideline. Most fibula fractures are 6+ week injuries and it’s extremely doubtful we’ll see Brown return during the regular season. The television replays didn’t suggest any additional ankle injuries, but Brown may need further testing to rule out a syndesmotic injury.

Jalen Parmele injured his left leg, but television replays weren’t conclusive on the mechanism. He tried to return but was unable to finish the game…Brandon Weeden has a concussion and will be re-evaluated throughout the week…Danario Alexander has a thigh injury that is not believed to be serious…Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman both left yesterday’s game with ankle injuries. Lovie Smith did not provide any updates after the game…Donald Butler has a groin injury and will be re-evaluated today.

 

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