Injury analysis: Slaton done for the year

BY foxsports • December 11, 2009

The playoff picture in the NFL is starting to come into focus. Unfortunately, that isn't always good news for fantasy owners and their playoff plans. NFL teams no longer jockeying for a playoff spot are often more inclined to sit their younger players battling nagging injuries. Playoff teams may also elect to give their talented superstars the occasional week off in preparation for the postseason. As a result, no injury can be considered minor, and daily examination of the injury reports is recommended.

Take, for example, the Falcons. After starting the season at 4-1, Atlanta's dropped five of its last seven games placing coach Mike Smith in a precarious situation. Because the Saints have clinched the division, and the Eagles, Giants and Packers are all ahead of the Falcons in the wild card standings, Smith must decide if he wants to play his two injured offensive cornerstones, running back Michael Turner and quarterback Matt Ryan, and put the future of the franchise at risk. Ryan's dealing with turf toe in his right foot that sidelined him for the loss to Philadelphia. While it appears the sprain is improving, the injury's serious enough that he visited a specialist last week and is clearly not 100 percent. The Falcons are unsure when he'll return, but hope he's capable of returning to the practice field on Wednesday. Turf toe is a painful injury and limits an athlete's mobility. It becomes a bigger issue for Atlanta when you consider that the condition can become a chronic issue if not allowed to properly heal.

Turner's status is also cloudy as he continues to nurse a sprained right ankle. He's missed two of the last three games and was severely limited in the one in which he participated. The current injury is a more traditional sprain and not a high-ankle variety, so the prognosis is slightly better, but it's likely Atlanta won't rush him back again. The team's indicating that he'll attempt to practice later in the week and test it. Keep in mind, he carried the ball a league-high 376 times last season and was on pace to carry it close to 300 times again, so his legs have obviously undergone some wear and tear. Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood will continue to split carries if Turner can't go and will likely steal a few carries even if he does play.

Houston running back Steve Slaton is dealing with a shoulder injury and was a spectator in the Texans' Week 14 loss to Jacksonville. While the injury is said to be to his shoulder, it appears it's a neurological issue as he's been experiencing numbness that was originally limited to the shoulder, but is now radiating into his thumb. During an assessment of an injury, medical personal will examine something called dermatomes. These 29 dermatomes are specific areas of skin that are innervated by a single spinal nerve. The numbness Slaton's experiencing is occurring to the C6 dermatome and is likely a result of an injury to the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves that runs from the neck to the shoulder and eventually up the arm. Slaton plans on visiting a spine specialist in hopes of pinpointing the problem. However, when you couple this injury with his season-long case of fumbilitis, the sophomore running back remains a risky start for the remainder of the season.

Slaton's teammate, quarterback Matt Schaub, is also a question mark after he dislocated his left shoulder against the Jaguars. Schaub suffered a similar injury in 2007 that required offseason surgery. Fortunately, the injury occurred to his non-throwing shoulder, and the Houston coaching staff is optimistic he'll be available for their Week 14 matchup against the Seahawks.

A short week of rest and an injured hamstring are working against veteran wide receiver Hines Ward. The Steelers took on the Browns in Thursday's game, but coach Mike Tomlin limited Ward's time after he strained his hamstring in Pittsburgh's fourth straight loss last weekend.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez suffered a slight tear to his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in a win over Buffalo last Thursday. The PCL isn't as well known as the more infamous anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but is fortunately the stronger of the two. It's still a primary component of knee stability and prevents knee hyperextension. In addition, it serves as the central axis for knee rotation. A sprain or microtear of the PCL results in swelling, pain and instability. The Jets have said Sanchez won't play if the knee lacks stability and expect their rookie quarterback to wear a brace when he does return. Fortunately, the extra days of treatment and rehabilitation are proving valuable, and head coach Rex Ryan was initially optimistic that Sanchez would be capable of playing when the Jets face the Buccaneers. However, Kellen Clemens got the majority of the first-team snaps in Monday's practice and was ultimately named the starter.

Sanchez isn't the only rookie quarterback suffering with injuries in his first NFL season. Detroit's Matthew Stafford is considering sitting for the next several games to rest his injured non-throwing shoulder. He originally sprained the acromioclavicular (AC) joint in his left shoulder against Cleveland in Week 11 and aggravated the injury Sunday when tackled by Cincinnati's Dhani Jones. He was replaced by Daunte Culpepper for the remainder of the game. Culpepper will now start in Stafford's place this week.

Article first appeared 12/8/09

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