Put him IN THE GAME or Sit him ON THE BENCH (NFL week one)

This NFL season, I have teamed up with FantasyPros.com to continue giving you unique injury analysis that will give your fantasy team and edge on the competition.

Now that the NFL injury report has eliminated the designation of “probable”, the questionable tag will include players who are anywhere from 50 to 99-percent likely to play. With this new development you will definitely need to check here every week before locking your lineups to make sure that you don’t get burned by a player whose injury status you miscalculated. I will use a combination of Injury Science and my experience as a Doctor of Physical Therapy to give you a more precise prediction of whether you can trust these players on game day. My recommendations are primarily based on the injury facts as compared to the production projections. You will have to take it from there, with your decision to put him in the game or sit him on the bench.

To get my analysis on players like Andrew Luck, Julio Jones, Jordy Neslson, and more; click here

How Injury Science can give you an edge in your fantasy football draft

With fantasy drafts quickly approaching, many of us are looking at various types of data to decide who to draft and when to draft them. In my opinion, Injury Science is one of the most underrated angles that can be used pre-draft to help decide the value of a player. Being able to decipher which injuries to stay away from vs. which injuries to ignore could be the difference between winning and losing. Some people will fade players that will return to the field playing at a high level; and some will draft players who have little chance of playing to their full potential due to the lingering effects of an injury from last season. Here are some players recovering from injury that you might be interested in:

Steve Smith Sr. (ruptured Achilles)- This is in no specific order, but I will admit that Steve Smith Sr. is easily my favorite player in the league. With that said, I don’t expect him to be nearly as productive as his normal self and I think we may get a Kobe like farewell tour out of the Allen Iverson of the NFL. I fear that Smith will have very little explosion from what was termed a “double rupture” of his Achilles, and the only way I am playing Smith Sr. is in daily fantasy and on a week where his motivation has been heightened. I believe Smith Sr. has one or two good games left in him. Otherwise, fantasy owners should completely fade him as this injury is a career closer for an explosive position such as wide receiver.

Jordy Nelson (ACL tear)– Many of these ACL cases will sound like a regurgitation of my feelings. I don’t want any skilled players with ACL tears that are less than two years removed from surgery on my fantasy team. That is my rule and Jordy Nelson is no different. The latest news has him suffering from a left knee injury, which is not surprising considering he is not at his one year mark for the ACL tear he suffered last pre-season. I don’t fear the ACL repair failing with these guys, but I fear the delayed return of their normal body mechanics and the compensations that occur when the mind does not trust the body. Nelson is likely to play most of the season; but I am betting that the combination of being 31 years old and being one year removed from ACL repair means that we see the pre-2013 Jordy Nelson who you do not want on your fantasy team.

Kelvin Benjamin (ACL tear)– Kelvin Benjamin has the benefit of being younger than Jordy Nelson as he enters his 3rd season in the NFL, but my rule remains the same. I expect him to struggle to get back into game form and likely show his normal skill set late in the year. Benjamin may be a consideration for daily fantasy during the latter part of the season, but I wouldn’t draft him in season long leagues as he is another player that is hovering around that one year mark. Just in case you missed it earlier–No ACL repairs that are less than two years removed from surgery on my fantasy team!

Keenan Allen (lacerated kidney)– Keenan Allen is on this list because he missed half the season, but in truth I would completely ignore the lacerated kidney that finished off his season last year. The chances of him having a recurrence of this type of injury is very slim and as a fantasy owner, my hope is that others are deterred them from picking him. Allen is someone I would keep my eye on, especially in PPR leagues as I believe he picks up exactly where he left off with a high volume of catches and the potential for some huge games. At the age of 24 years old and with very little injury history prior to last year, Keenan Allen may one of the best values on this list.

Kevin White (lower leg stress fracture)-Kevin White is a perfect example of why I use caution when investing in “Freaky Talented” athletes. When you are 6-foot-3 inches, 216 lbs, and run a 4.35 40-yard dash; there are consequences. The stress fracture to White’s tibia is a sign that his body is not likely to keep up with his level of talent for long durations. This injury basically says that White’s muscles are creating so much force and speed that his bones simply can’t withstand it. Ruling White in or out based on his injury alone would be very difficult. However, when I consider that his coach wants balance, he is a clear number two option to Alshon Jeffery, and that his quarterback is Jay Cutler, the risk/reward equation definitely tips in the risk direction. I would fade White this season unless the injury prone Alshon Jeffery goes down and White becomes the top option for the Bears at receiver. White definitely has the talent to be a fantasy superstar, but I don’t think his body will hold up for him to realize his full potential.

LeVeon Bell (MCL tear)-I have made my feeling about LeVeon Bell very clear on a few occasions. I believe he will enter the season at 100% and if he keeps his weight down, I consider him no lower than the second best fantasy players earth. As a fantasy owner, I am far more worried about Bell’s pending suspension and his weight than I am about his injury status.

Jamaal Charles (ACL tear)– I read an article earlier this summer that made the case that Charles may be the most under-valued back in fantasy this season. I would like to tell that writer that YOU ARE WRONG! By the time Charles recovers from this ACL injury he will be staring 30 years old dead in the face; and for a running back I translate these facts to mean it’s over. I believe the Jamaal Charles that was a fantasy beast for so many years is officially gone, and at best we get a player who is a solid contributor to a running back by committee duo or trio. Those who use a high pick on Charles will definitely regret it. The injury wrap sheet for Jamaal Charles is too long for me to rattle off here, but trust me, it’s over!

Tony Romo (collarbone fracture) – I’m not really sure Romo is worth talking about. He has the best offensive line in the business and somehow manages to fracture bones on a yearly basis. With the Dallas Cowboys being a running team and Tony Romo’s injury floor being pretty high, I’m not sure why anyone would take Romo as more than a situational fantasy start. Tony Romo doesn’t strike me as being a gym guy beyond what is required of him, but he might benefit from adding a bit more muscle to absorb these hits that are causing him fractures. I doubt much will change with Romo’s body and I think we can expect another abbreviated season from him.

Joe Flacco (ACL tear)– Joe Flacco comes closest to making me break my ACL rules, but not quite. Flacco plans to wear a brace to protect his plant leg and despite his big arm, I believe this will have a negative effect on his performance this year. With the Baltimore Ravens offense being inconsistent at best, I see no reason to trust Joe Flacco who will only be about 10 months out of surgery when opening day comes around. I expect Flacco’s production to decline some and his fantasy value to stay in the basement.

Andrew Luck (shoulder sprain/strain)– I have already detailed why I may be targeting Andrew Luck as my top quarterback and this has not changed. I think Andrew Luck enters the season at 100% and despite last years issues, he continues to present as one of the least risky players in fantasy football. By nature the quarterback has a low injury risk, but add in the fact that Luck is 6-foot 4 inches and over 230 lbs, and no quarterback outside of Cam Newton has a better body to body ratio when it comes to taking on defenders. As Luck continues to mature, I think we will see a quarterback who will be difficult to injure. All of the injuries from last year are of little concern with the exception of the right should subluxation, which I consider to be a low risk to recur. I am hopeful that many will sleep on Andre Luck and allow him to fall in drafts as I expect him to be the top fantasy quarterback of the 2016 season.

Andrew Luck needs better bodyguards!

Although many athletes today are big and strong and could likely have been bodyguards themselves if not for their athletic skill, many of them need a team of bodyguards to protect them from harm. Unfortunately we live in a world where athletes have various threats to their personal safety. When it comes to bodyguards most people envision these huge figures dressed in black with mean faces as they surround the star athlete. I have a completely different vision when I think of bodyguards. I am not impressed by how big, strong, and mean a bodyguard may look. I am much more concerned with the bodyguard’s ability to do the job. A good team of bodyguards provide layers of physical protection as well as tactical protection. Many times the big muscular bodyguard is in the front, while the next layers of protection are more dependent on being tactful and strategic with their protection.

Last season, Andrew Luck found out the hard way that bodyguards are very important. Luck suffered multiple injuries during an incident in which his bodyguards failed him. The incident just happened to take place on the football field and the bodyguards in question are not likely the kind you were imagining.

Bodyguards don’t need to be big and mean to be effective!

If you take a careful look at the functions of many of your soft tissue body parts; many of them serve as bodyguards to bones, joints, and internal organs. Andrew Luck’s bodyguard’s failed on all three of these fronts last year as he went down with a lacerated kidney, an abdominal tear, torn rib cartilage and a subluxation of his right shoulder. For every motion and every impact during a football game, there are bodyguard’s responsible for protecting the underlying structures from being injured. Simply stated, if you have well-developed muscles and healthy ligaments, your joints, bones, and internal organs are typically well protected. Physics teaches us that we can’t get rid of force, but that we can only make sure that we transfer force from one mass to another. In the case of our bodies we want excess force to be placed on our bodyguards which are primarily our muscles and ligaments, which are built to take on force, rather than our joints and bones which deteriorate or fracture upon taking too much force.

When using Injury Science to study Andrew Luck’s outlook for this upcoming season, I immediately threw out the lacerated kidney injury and even the rib injuries that he suffered last year. A lacerated kidney is not unheard of but is somewhat of an anomaly of an injury, even for the football field. This type of injury to an internal organ is unlikely to repeat, and is more of an injury you might see in a car accident or worse. As for the rib injury, Luck has had more than enough time for this to heal, and this injury does not lend itself to many long-term concerns. The abdominal tear worries me a little as I have a great amount of respect for injuries to the core. Despite the constant focus you hear about quarterbacks having strong arms, the arm is only the messenger that releases the ball. Throwing a football greatly relies on the legs and the core to create velocity, distance, and even accuracy. In my experience, abdominal tears and strains have a greater tendency to linger and repetitive throwing and getting hit won’t help the matter. Even with my feeling on the abdominal injury, I would not consider this a yellow flag in regard to taking Luck as my number one QB. Luck has time and youth on his side and should have been able to rest enough this offseason to assure that there will be no lingering abdominal issues.

The most concerning injury to consider if drafting Andrew Luck is the reported right shoulder subluxation that he suffered last year. Shoulder subluxation is a fancy way of describing shoulder instability. With the shoulder being one of the most freely moving joints, their can be a fine line between normal shoulder movement and instability. What complicates this more is that there are so many structures responsible for stabilizing the shoulder, it makes it very difficult to give a prognosis for what Andrew Luck may be dealing with from afar. In essence, there are so many bodyguards involved at the shoulder joint that if someones messes up it is hard to pinpoint who messed up. Luck’s shoulder could suffer subluxation in any direction including forward, backward, up, or down; and the structures that may be weak or dysfunctional to allow this excess movement are many. Only those close to Andrew Luck’s rehab process will know exactly what is going on and be able to speak to his exact dysfunction. Similar to other injuries, the outcome of an injury like this can be layered as a subluxation can threaten a tear of the labrum which would likely take Andrew Luck out for a season if it were severe and required surgery; subluxation could threaten muscle strains and tears that could become chronic and cause frequent short-term rehab stints; subluxation can also compromise the ligaments around the joint which may lead to abnormal movements and a multitude of inflammatory issues to arise in the shoulder. The possibilities are countless with this injury but the only way to know is to be Andrew Luck’s personal physician, therapist, or someone with access to his medical records.

So now that I have told you what I don’t know, I will tell you what I think. Andrew Luck is too young and has too many resources to have this type of injury serve as limiter of his production. The same factors that make this a difficult injury to assess from afar, also make it an easy one to speculate on from a rehab approach. The shoulder joint has so many stabilizers that typically if one structure is weak or injured you have the option of rehabilitating that structure or focusing on shifting that structures role to another tissue. The rotator cuff group which is a major shoulder stabilizing group is a prime example. I often have patients with diagnosed rotator cuff tears in one of the four rotator cuff muscles, regain full function by relying on the other three rotator cuff muscles along with some help from surface muscles like the chest and shoulder muscles. The point is that there are so many options and ways that Andrew Luck can come into this season with his throwing arm at 100 percent. As for his long-term outlook with the upcoming season and beyond, I actually feel like last season may have been the blessing that Luck and the Indianapolis Colts needed. I doubt that Luck will have the reckless abandon that he has shown in the past and I doubt that the Colts will continue to play in a manner that puts their franchise quarterback at such a high risk, now that they know that he is not invincible. I fully expect that the rehab team will have Andrew Luck’s intrinsic bodyguards (his muscles and ligaments) in better shape; and the Indianapolis Colts will have his extrinsic bodyguards (his lineman and other teammates) in better shape. With this improvement in both areas, I believe that Luck and his fantasy owners should be in for a good season.

In the end, I am strongly considering taking Andrew Luck as my quarterback and feel confident that I will get him for 16 games.