Week 8 fantasy football injury report analysis
It's inevitable. Every year an NFL player attempts to play through a problematic hamstring strain, only to aggravate or worsen the injury site. Fortunately for this injury analyst it provides me a platform to again explain why this isn't as easy as some assume and why taking a conservative approach with this injury is often the safest game plan.
The hamstring isn't a passive muscle or even a limited secondary synergist. It's a dynamic muscle group responsible for providing major movement at not one, but two different joints. The three hamstring muscles work to bend the knee (knee flexion) and straighten the hip (hip extension). The hamstring is the antagonist to the quadriceps muscle group, working in an opposite manner to the major muscle group on the flipside of the thigh. This complex relationship allows the two groups to accelerate and decelerate the knee. Given the sheer power and force generated between the two, it's not surprising that the hamstring remains vulnerable to strains.
Once a strain to the area has occurred, an intricate, multiphase healing process is initiated. Each phase is delicate, but it's the final few phases that often prove to be problematic for an injured athlete. As the initial inflammation phase begins to subside, tissue repair begins. Scar tissue, made up of complex proteins fibers like collagen and elastin, begins to develop at the injury site. This phase, known as the proliferative phase, often takes four to six weeks depending on the severity of the strain. It's during this time that the final phase, known as the remodeling phase, starts. Collagen fibers within the scar tissue are repeatedly broken down and remade to increase strength by properly aligning the injured muscle fibers to resemble healthy tissue. Unfortunately, the body does this in a random fashion, creating scar tissue that may feel and appear healthy but does not possess the same strength as the preinjured muscle.
Athletic trainers or physical therapists can fight this predisposition by loading the injured muscle in a precise pattern during the rehab process. Still, newly formed tissue remains susceptible to reinjury, sometimes for as long as a year. This is a primary factor of why players may often experience recurrent hamstring injuries over a significant period.
As a result, patience is key to ensure that the proper amount of healing has been carried out to allow the muscle to withstand the rigors of football. The Bills and LeSean McCoy felt his strained hammy was ready to go on Sunday, allowing him to play just days after suffering the injury in practice. During the game McCoy experienced renewed pain in the area and was removed. Now it looks as though McCoy may not be available for this week's showdown with the division rival Patriots.
However, keep in mind McCoy does have a history of hamstring strains. He previously strained this same hamstring during training camp last season. The injury was given a partial tear classification, but the running back was back by the regular season opener. However, three weeks into the season McCoy aggravated the issue, forcing him to miss an additional two weeks. He's now faced with a similar scenario, and a week off may be the safer play. Even if he does manage to suit up, he'll have an increased level of risk, and expectations regarding his productivity should be scaled back. If McCoy is unable to play, look for Buffalo to turn to a committee of Mike Gillislee, Reggie Bush and rookie Jonathan Williams. Gillislee likely has the most value in all formats.
Dez Bryant: The Cowboys are expected to welcome Bryant back into the fold Sunday against the Eagles. Bryant hasn't played since suffering a bone injury in Week 3. There's been a debate about the extent of the damage sustained, but it appears as though the four weeks off have allowed his right knee to appropriately heal either way. He's also managing a few minor lacerations on his right fingers from a kitchen accident, but they shouldn't be a problem. While Bryant has scored more touchdowns against the Eagles than any other team he's faced in his career, I'll feel more comfortable about his short-term and long-term value after seeing him perform.
Jamaal Charles: The Chiefs running back is currently managing swelling in his surgically repaired knee. While he was active on Sunday, Charles received just one carry in the team's win over New Orleans. The exact root of the swelling has not been made available, though it's not uncommon for some fluid to build up following surgery. The team doesn't appear to be very concerned about the issue, especially since they have Spencer Ware at their disposal. Ware's continued impressive play has allowed the Kansas City medical staff to take a conservative approach with Charles and gradually bring him back to top form. The process is understandably frustrating for fantasy owners who invested heavily in Charles, and at this point there's no good indicator of if and when we will see him receive a regular workload.
Brian Hoyer: The Bears signal caller suffered a fractured left arm against the Packers and has already undergone surgery to mend the area. He's expected to miss at least eight weeks recovering. The timing of the injury is a bid serendipitous as Jay Cutler, out since Week 2 with a sprained thumb, has recently been cleared to return. Look for Cutler to return to action in Week 8 against the Vikings. However, given the matchup, Cutler is an emergency option at best.
Tevin Coleman and Doug Martin: Everything previously discussed with McCoy is applicable to these two. Coleman suffered a hamstring strain Sunday and is already considered iffy for Week 8. The Falcons running back does have a prior hamstring strain on his medical report, having missed time during the 2015 preseason with a left hamstring injury. In Tampa Bay, Martin suffered a setback on his road to recovery following his Week 2 hamstring strain and is currently without a timeline for return.
Geno Smith: Smith's return to the starting quarterback spot in New York was brief, as the 26-year-old suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He will miss the remainder of the year and could have a hard time finding a suitor when he hits the free agent market in the summer. Ryan Fitzpatrick resumes the starting position for the Jets but isn't a reliable option at this point.