Black and Blue Report
A comprehensive look at the biggest injuries of the week.

Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Will Carroll

Matt Hasselbeck

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

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.

Matthew Stafford and Daunte Culpepper

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.

Trent Edwards

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.

Anquan Boldin

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.

Kris Jenkins

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.

Chris Samuels

"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.

Lofa Tatupu

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.

Antwan Odom

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.

Bumps and Bruises:

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

2 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Even ignoring the possibility of the elephant in the room with Odom, could his new, quickly gained weight been a partial factor in his injury? Do ligaments strengthen as the body puts on more stress (even if they don't get bigger?) I didn't see his injury, so I don't know if his weight was on his injured leg when it happened.

3 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

my guess is odom was roiding in some way. There is no way someone who is already at an elite physical shape just gains 30 pounds of muscle in a 6 month period.

This injury is just proof in the pudding.

Aaron Kampman -- hit up odom for whatever he used, you are looking thinner then some safety's.

Why is the nfl network so much louder then every other channel? god danm!

-benny b

5 The Vikings are bing specific

I know its a typo, but I like the sound of "Bing Specific". I think I'm even gonna roll up a character named that in some MMO.

6 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Will, the only way you're going to get a safe game is independent doctors on the sideline with the power to keep players out of the game without the players' or the coach's consent. Neither the union nor the league will go for it in collective bargaining due to the fact that both sides have agreed that they will sell the player's bodies and brains and futures for cash. The media will never go for it as the networks are completely dependent on the league, as its most prominent "news" people either are former employees or owe their broadcasting careers to football. The likelihood of honest reflection on the unprecedented dangers of this sport is as unlikely as boxing promoters doing so. If proposed, they would do everything in their power to describe it as "unmanly" and how "in my day, real football players..." while ignoring the numbers of crippled "real football players."

So, the only outside body with the strength and the independence to mandate a safe work environment is the federal government. But, again, no one will get voted out of office to advance such an unpopular idea.

So, really, the only hope is to get the American people to think about it, which requires people like yourself and Gladwell to keep pushing how unsafe the pro and college game is. I hope you keep doing that, but be aware just how long a road you have to hoe.

I love playing football. I love watching football. I wish I didn't feel so dirty after reading the injury report, however.

18 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

People sell all sorts of things for cash; Dignity, emotional well-being, relationships, intellectual stimulation, Many people's jobs actively make them stupid if recent research is to be believed.

Personally I would love to see a less violent NFL as I just don't find the violence as part of the entertainment. But I think I am in the minority on that, and in the long history of people exchanging things for wealth and fame NFL players really are getting a pretty good deal no matter which way you slice it.

20 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Being mentioned in the same sentence with Gladwell is pretty amazing.

I think the other solution here is the more American one: technology. Better helmets, better pads, better medical procedures, and perhaps even pharmaceuticals. There's more we can do to keep this from being something we don't enjoy.

7 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

"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."

I have to call BS on this. Hulk Hogan is the greatest wrestler of all time.

Or perhaps you're thinking of Stan Gable, who was not a wrestler, but a QB for the Adams Atoms.

10 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

The youtube link in the Hasselback section is broken, contains an extra double quote that breaks it.

The correct link is here.

Its the Owen Schmidt hitting himself in the head with his helmet thing, which I'm sure everyone has seen.

13 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

I totally agree that players who cause injuries by violating the rules should miss time...that would incentivize them to be a little more careful and play less for the Sports-Center highlight, and also incentivize coaches to coach their players to be more mindful of the health of the opponents (right now, coaches have no incentive to do's not the coach who gets fined if a player makes a vicious, illegal hit).

You'd have to be fairly strict about how you did it, though...otherwise, an unscrupulous coach who had a minor player injured by a key performer for a division opponent could sabotage his division rival by keeping his minor player out for an extended period of time "just to be safe".

15 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Not just an "extended period of time". Marginal players could reasonably be put on the IR if they are expected to miss half of the games remaining in a season, which could take a player out for a season.

And what do you do with a situation like Percy the Purple (good Viking name). He's playing with a preexisting injury, where otherwise innocuous contact (like a takedown out of bounds that results in a 15 yard personal, but rarely results in injury) could be blamed for a season ending injury.

That is one of those good ideas that probably cannot be made into good law.

16 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Plus, there are so many hits that are borderline. Look up Ogunleye's sack of Stafford. It looks clean enough to me, but he ended up with a fine. Now he would have to sit all these games because of a close call, and the fact that the Lions are being extra careful with their rookie QB.

25 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

MJK, I agree with you. I think Wesley of the Panthers got off light--although I read somewhere that, because he has been in the league 8? yrs. and has never done anything like this, that RG went light on him.
Back to your post: I would say that to implement your suggestion, there would have to be minimum and maximum suspension times. For example, a dirty hit that caused a concussion=1 game min, 2 game max. Causes a minor surgery (not worthy of IR)= 2 games min, 4 games max. Causes a player to break a bone/tear ligament etc. that almost always necesitates said player going on IR--4 games min., 8 games max.
Or something like this. Also, team with the offending player CANNOT put him on IR (if it were to happen at the end of the season). He MUST STAY on the active roster. The other side of the coin is that no suspensions would carry over into the following year (however, I am not sure if suspensions should carry into the playoffs).

14 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

I'm no doctor, but with the bye this week, I'd give Stafford and Culpepper the week off and start thinking about who will be back for Week 8.

21 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

The union would never agree to it, but I have thought for a long time that a return to limited substitution football would result in greater safety, since the players would have to get smaller in order to avoid being completely gassed by the third quarter. I also think there is a chance that it would be more entertaining.

28 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Neither played, so there's really no new information to discuss in regards to either. Have to wait for practice. Normally that's why I publish on Thursday, so that I have the Wed practice reports, but there were some issues big enough that it needed immediate discussion and some schedule considerations.

34 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

The solution to the concussion problem seems obvious . Helmets should be redsigned so there is padding on the outside too . This would make a bigger helmet that would change the look of the game , but that shouldn't matter . It would also decrease other injuries caused by the rock-hard helmets .

37 Re: Black and Blue Report: October 20, 2009

Boston Globe said that OL Matt Light, RB Sammy Morris, RB Fred Taylor, and WR Julian Edelman were not spotted in the travel party heading to London. On the flip side, CB Darius Butler was seen.

Re: #36
This is the Patriots. Do you really expect to know anything before either the IR announcement is made or he appears on the field? 1/2 :)