In this week's Varsity Numbers, Bill Connelly revisits some measures and concepts: Adjusted Scores, Covariance, and momentum (or whatever you choose to call it).
20 Oct 2009
by Will Carroll
Chris Myers isn't normally someone often quoted in an injury column, but something he said was so outrageous that we have to take a look at it. Early in Sunday's game, Myers stated as fact that Hasselbeck had to have "injections into the fractures in his ribs." Amazingly, he's exactly right. According to Gregg Bell of the AP, Hasselbeck had precise injections of painkillers put directly into the fractures. Using imagery to guide the fine needles, painkillers were shot both in and near the sites of the fractures, focused on the nerves in the affected area. Despite this, Hasselbeck had pain with every breath as the mere motion of inhalation causes spasm in the area. Then he played football, in a game where the Cardinals admit they were targeting him physically. Darnell Dockett was quoted after the game saying that they wanted to get to him early and get some hits on him. It might have worked, as Hasselbeck was decidedly less effective in the loss than he had been just a week ago in beating the Jaguars. The key here is that the fractures are not closed and may not have made much progress in three weeks. Is that a result of taking more hits, jarring loose any joining? The medium-term implications of this are curious and perhaps dangerous for the Seahawks. The team is certainly more physical, but whether that helps them win games remains to be seen. This story goes hand in hand with the next to really raise some questions about how the NFL handles injuries.
Percy Harvin came into Sunday's game with a problematic shoulder. Early in the game, he was running hard, delivering hits and looking like the shoulder was causing him no problems. No problems? Well, it turns out he just wasn't feeling the pain. Harvin "took the spike" prior to the game, the football term for an injection of painkillers. Essentially, he couldn't feel what he was doing to the shoulder and played with reckless abandon while it lasted. Once it wore off, Harvin found himself cringing with every motion, leaving the dome with his arm in a sling. Was one game worth it? Maybe, since the Vikings won by only the slimmest of margins, but this is the ultimate in long-term/short-term tradeoffs. It's also a terrible story at a time where the league's disdain for player health and safety is under increased scrutiny. Harvin could be out a while with this, or he might get into a cycle where the painkillers allow him to play, but not heal. As with Hasselbeck, this isn't something that's unusual in isolation, although it is troubling. As a matter of standard practice, we have to all look at Malcolm Gladwell's comparison of football to dogfighting and wonder just how right he is. Just how much are we willing to allow these players to do in order to entertain us? Given that we're going to give millions to a teenage actor who 'roided up for a part, I'm not sure I like the answer.
When the name "James Andrews" comes up, it seems like people run to put blood over the door frame. It's not always that bad. Andrews was reportedly sent images of Matthew Stafford's knee, something that I speculated might be due to some level of care that Andrews may have provided during the time Stafford was at Georgia. Seeing that Andrews is team physician for both Alabama and Auburn (yeah, just think about that) it's plausible that Andrews would be in a unique position to compare the "before and after" of the Lions quarterback's knee. It turns out that Andrews was asked to at most consult. Stafford continues to have some swelling in his knee and the team is doing it's due diligence on when Stafford should be brought back. With the strained hamstring suffered by Daunte Culpepper during Week 6, whether Stafford could or should be back in Week 7 takes on new importance. As of now, it looks like the team is leaning to giving Stafford at least one more week off, but surgery is not an option at this stage. As for Culpepper, he was very sore Monday and could be out, necessitating that the Lions take a look at backups for Drew Stanton.
Another week, another quarterback concussion. The NFL keeps getting bigger, stronger and faster, and while some don't agree with me that the human body is nearing its tolerances (or at least in an adjustment period), the evidence is stacking up like bodies. Actually, exactly like bodies. Trent Edwards was knocked out of the game by a jailbreak blitz, where he was hit low just before getting hit high. The low hit dropped his head into just the wrong position for the second impact, leaving the resultant concussion. Edwards had a concussion at about this time last season, but missed no time due to the bye week. Reports have Edwards not losing consciousness at any point, but as with any concussion, we'll have to see how quickly the symptoms go away. His effectiveness and that of Ryan Fitzpatrick will complicate things, so we'll just have to be patient.
When you hear "high ankle sprain," the initial reaction is always bad. When Anquan Boldin says his latest injury isn't that bad, we have to contrast a player who's seldom been good at self-diagnosis, but does have some evidence for healing well, with knowledge that he is suffering an injury that lingers. This one's going to come down to results, not semantics. A high ankle sprain can come in minor varieties and if Boldin's back out on the practice field this week, this was one of those. We should have plenty of time and guidance to figure out how this will affect Boldin going into Week 7. The Cards have several receiving options, so no matter what, I expect them to be a bit conservative with Boldin.
Do big men have bigger ligaments? The answer, surprisingly, is no. I spoke with a team doctor on Monday about the challenges of replacing an ACL in a guy the size of Kris Jenkins and I jokingly asked if they have to put together two grafts or something. He explained that no, ligaments are in proportion to the "normal size" of a person, rather than the added bulk that an NFL player has. It's interesting that there's a "predicted size" for a person, but he told me to look at the parents and siblings of most NFL players. For the most part, they're only slightly larger than "normal" people. (Any guesses as to which Manning brother is the smallest?) Jenkins is huge, one of those human beings that seems to blot out the sun when he walks past, but for a while, he won't be walking. Jenkins should be able to come back from ACL repair, but he'll do it with a normal ligament replacement procedure. The genetics of sports are endlessly fascinating, especially when you consider what might come from some of the next generation. Scouts are already salivating.
"Stinger" sounds like an innocuous injury. If you've ever played football, you've probably had one. It hurts for an instant, then less for a while, and then it's forgotten. The cause is a stretching or minor trauma to the nerve that comes out of the spine and goes down the arm. It's usually a shock trauma, a protective mechanism that pulls the body inward. If you see video of someone having one, both arms reactively pull in, with the affected side happening quickly with a non-brain reaction, then the other pulling in as the signal reaches the brain. Done once, it's an annoyance, but over and over, damage to the nerve can be problematic. Perhaps the best-known example of this is the greatest wrestler of all time, Dan Gable, who has residual weakness in his arm due to repeated stingers. Chris Samuels doesn't want to have damage that will last him the rest of his life and due to a congenital stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal), Samuels may have an anatomical reason for his repeated stingers. Unlike most players, he's not willing to play through it any more and could walk away. We'll see how this plays out and see if the media contrasts this with situations like Hasselbeck's and Harvin's.
It may not be as bad for Lofa Tatupu as initially thought. A torn pectoral is bad, sure, but let's be clear about this: The tear exists near the shoulder at the insertion rather than the chest, the location where one would normally think of the pectoral. The injury will make it difficult for Tatupu to push off, which would be much worse for a lineman. Where this is really bad for a player like Tatupu is that the pectoral is a big part of an "arm tackle." A linebacker catches the runner in the crook of his arm, slows him and hopefully wraps up and brings him down. Without the pectoral to pull the arm in, a runner could go right through it. Tatupu might be limited to impact tackles on his left side or to do the linebacking equivalent of running around his backhand, cheating a bit to his left and using his uninjured right arm. Tatupu will miss significant time, probably at least three weeks, before any of this is possible.
This is as straightforward a story as can be. Antwan Odom tore his Achilles tendon, will need surgery, and is done for the year. He should have no problem returning next season, hopefully picking up where he left off with his breakthrough run. I could stop there and you'd know everything you need to know, but I'm never quite that simple and injuries aren't either. Odom's breakthrough comes on the heels of him putting on significant weight, adding quickness to his game that he hadn't before exhibited, and doing both in a very short period of time. I don't think I have to tell you what that could indicate, and if so, tendon brittleness is one of the issues. This leads to a muscle overworking a tendon and popping it, much as Barry Bonds did with his biceps. Odom was clearly injured by a chop block, however, so no matter what happened previously, it's a trauma that's the root cause. That's not to say that some of the smoke didn't surround a fire or contribute to the weakness in a tendon, but we just don't know and there's an easier explanation available.
Clifton Smith should recover after a vicious hit leading to a concussion. While his attacker was fined, how about the NFL institutes a rule where an illegal hit costs a player as many games as the injured player as a penalty? Without pay ... Marques Colston and Tom Brady both had big days. Leg injuries have a tendency to require a "confidence period" where, while a player is playing, they're not near 100 percent. It takes about six weeks, so both should be fine going forward ... LenDale White walked out under his own power after the massacre this week, but his knee took him out early. There's little info on the problem or severity, so we'll have to watch practice reports ... The Rams seem very concerned about Donnie Avery, mentioning "deja vu" when talking about his hip injury. This one's going to bear a lot of watching this week, but there's no early indications of severity ... Sources tell me that Steve Smith (Carolina version) is having no significant problems with his knee ... "General body soreness" sounds like one of those vague things that would tick me off when reported. The Vikings are bing specific with that generality after Adrian Peterson continually faced eight and nine men in the box and took some big Ray Lewis hits. He should recover, but those kind of games are the reason "mileage" is an issue for even the most elite running backs ...
37 comments, Last at 22 Oct 2009, 5:10pm by PatsFan