Week 11 fantasy football injury report includes Sammie Coates, Jordan Howard

Rob Gronkowski

The Patriots tight end suffered a chest injury in the team’s Sunday night loss to the Seahawks. The injury is believed to have occurred following a hard hit from Seattle safety Earl Thomas. It has been reported that Gronk suffered what is believed to be a punctured lung, though New England has yet to confirm the diagnosis.

Lung injuries are not unheard of in football, with multiple players suffering a variety of lung-related ailments in recent years. Wide receiver Andre Johnson suffered a lung contusion in 2009 while Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered a small punctured lung in 2011.

The lungs are the paired organs that allow for breathing. The delicate tissue of the lungs is protected by the double-layered pleura and the ribcage. However, if the impact from a direct blow is significant, even the body’s various levels of defense cannot prevent an injury from occurring.

A lung contusion or bruised lung occurs when the blood vessels known as capillaries are injured, causing blood to leak into the neighboring lung tissue. The accrued damage makes breathing difficult, though the injury generally improves in three to five days.

A punctured or collapsed lung, clinically known as a pneumothorax, is a more problematic injury. The lungs are surrounded by the aforementioned pleural cavity. The pleural cavity is filled with fluid and aids in breathing while helping maintain the pressure of the lungs. If the cavity becomes punctured, air is forced into the area and the lung on that particular side collapses. The injured individual experiences pain and difficulty breathing. While a traumatic pneumothorax is often the result of a broken rib, the injury can occur without an associated rib fracture.

As for now, the notoriously tight-lipped Patriots have not confirmed the pneumothorax or mentioned an associated rib injury. However, if the reports of a punctured lung are accurate, Gronkowski will need time to let the hole causing air to enter the pleural cavity to heal. Fortunately, this can occur in as little as one week. However, the team’s upcoming opponent complicates the issue. The Patriots play in San Francisco on Sunday, meaning the team will be forced to take a cross-country flight to the West Coast. This could prove difficult for Gronkowski, as air travel following a traumatic pneumothorax generally is not recommended. While studies remain split on how long an injured individual should wait, it seems likely that the Patriots will play it safe and leave Gronk at home. More information should become available as the week continues, but consider Gronkowski doubtful at best. Martellus Bennett becomes suddenly fantasy relevant again and could be widely available after several unproductive weeks had fantasy owners looking elsewhere.

Turf Burns

Sammie Coates: The second-year wide receiver burst onto the scene in the first five weeks of the season, hauling in 19 receptions for 421 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he’s totaled just one catch in the four weeks since, as multiple finger fractures are making things difficult for him. Coates has played with his index and ring fingers taped and splinted, but he just can’t seem to get things going. Finger injuries often take a long time to heal, as any movement can slow the healing process. While it appears he will remain on the active roster, he simply can’t be counted on for fantasy purposes.

Larry Fitzgerald: The Cardinals wide receiver has struggled with an assortment of injuries throughout the season including lingering pain in his ankle and knee. He appeared to add a neck injury to the list Sunday after an awkward fall. However, he managed to finish the game, hauling in 12 receptions on his way to his first 100-yard receiving day of the season. Head coach Bruce Arians expects Fitzgerald to play in Week 11 against the Vikings despite the fact that the former Pro Bowler underwent a "precautionary" MRI on Monday. Consider him day-to-day for now.

Jordan Howard: The Bears running back received just two carries in the team’s second half loss to the Buccaneers after experiencing what the team called "tightness" in the area of his ankle and Achilles. He downplayed the severity of the situation following the game and denied any real problem. Keep a close eye on his availability throughout the week to help bring some clarity to the issue, but it currently appears as if he will be in uniform against the Giants in Week 11.

Doug Martin: A one-yard touchdown managed to salvage what was a pretty unimpressive return for Martin. He gained just 33 yards on 16 carries and struggled against the Bears defensive front. However, the fact that he was able to get through the game without a setback to his problematic hamstring is a good sign moving forward. He faces a Kansas City defense that has struggled to stop the run in Week 11 before Tampa Bay’s schedule gets significantly harder, including games against Seattle and Dallas.

Tony Romo: The Cowboys quarterback is expected to be active in Week 11 for the first time this season. Romo hasn’t played since suffering a compression fracture in his lower back during the preseason. However, active doesn’t mean playing, as the impressive play of rookie Dak Prescott has forced Romo into a backup role with the team. He’s worth a roster spot in deeper leagues, but owners in 10 and 12-team leagues can send the former Pro Bowler to the waiver wire.

Sammy Watkins: Watkins’ problematic foot is improving, though the Bills don’t expect to activate him from the injured reserve this week. The Buffalo wide out has not played since Week 2 after he suffered a setback in his recovery from offseason surgery for a fractured fifth metatarsal. He’s managed to avoid a second surgery so far, but the chances of him returning and making much of an impact this season are quickly dwindling. Teams still clinging on to hope for a late-season return may need to evaluate their roster. If space is needed to accommodate for a healthy, active player, now may be the best time to move on from Watkins.

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.

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