Can Le’Veon Answer The Bell With A Hyperextended Knee

January 2, 2015

Le’Veon Bell suffered a hyperextended knee this past Sunday night and is questionable for the Pittsburgh Steelers matchup vs. the Baltimore Ravens.  I will break down whether he will play and how effective he can be with this type of injury. (During editing of this post, Le’Veon Bell has been officially ruled out)

leveon-bell-reggie-nelson-hit
Close your eyes Steelers fans!

The Science

A hyperextended knee is not all that uncommon among athletes that play contact sports, but the average person has likely never experienced a hyperextended knee and especially not the traumatic type like Le’Veon Bell suffered.  In medical terms hyper means over or beyond and extension means to straighten.  Therefore hyperextension refers to the act of the knee straightening beyond its normal position.  In essence the knee bends backward either due to trauma or in some cases due to a force or momentum that is put on the knee by intrinsic or extrinsic forces.

Most of us don’t experience this type of injury because we are never exposed to such forces and furthermore when we are exposed to force that would bend our knee in the wrong direction, there are a few barriers that stop hyperextension from occurring.  The first line of defense being your hamstring musculature.  The hamstrings are the primary muscle group that bend the knee in the correct direction, but they also resist the knee being bent in the wrong direction.  Additionally the ligaments of the knee act as another line of defense to prevent the knee from going beyond its normal limits.  The Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) would be the primary limiter against hyperextension.  While these ligaments and musculature help prevent hyperextension, they are also at risk for injury during this act of protecting the knee.

hyperextended knee
This persons left knee is hyperextended. As you can see, some people have this range of motion naturally while for most this would be painful.

The anatomy of this injury is hopefully fairly simple to understand.  However, the recovery from this injury and whether Bell can play this weekend is a little more complicated.  An injury like this has layers that go beyond simple concerns like pain tolerance and getting the knee strong enough to play.  Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers will need to be attentive to whether Bell can play this week as their primary concern, but with this being the playoffs they will need to look at making sure they don’t lose him for the rest of the playoffs.  While this injury does not typically include any long-term fears for the health of Bell’s knee, there are some short-term issues that make this a situation that needs to be managed just right.

To explain more clearly I will use an injury that is more common; the ankle sprain.  Many more non athletes or recreational athletes have suffered an ankle sprain.  For many, the first ankle sprain leads to a second ankle sprain and for some who are less fortunate it leads to ongoing ankle sprains.  Even for those who don’t sprain the ankle again after the first injury, you can appreciate the instability following and ankle sprain when placing that foot on the ground or a surface like grass or gravel.  An ankle sprain is not all that different from a hyperextended knee as it is still simply a joint that is enduring more motion than it should in a particular direction.  With a sprained ankle, we are many times over stretching our ankle everters (muscles) and our anterior talofibular ligament; while with a hyperextended knee we are over stretching our hamstrings (muscles) and our Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL).  In fact, a hyperextended knee is really just a sprained knee; just like you would say a sprained ankle.  The sprained ankle is notorious for its recurrence, and this is not due to plain old bad luck.  There is a scientific reasoning for why people re-sprain the same ankle and this same rationale is essential to the plan for Le’Veon Bell’s return.

In my opinion the three most important words for the Pittsburgh Steelers this week are Somatosensory, Proprioception, and Mechanoreceptors.  These are not the common words that you will hear on all the ESPN and NFL network updates, but trust that Bell’s return should be centered around these words.  These words are all related and based in neuroscience.  In a way they are just three big fancy words that you can use to sound smart that all lead to a similar place of reasoning.

Somatosensory refers to the Somatosensory system.  This is the system that informs us of our external environment, our body positioning, and other stimuli.  Your Somatosensory system processes just about everything ranging from telling your brain that the water on your hands is too hot to telling your hamstrings to contract because your knee is being bent too far backward.  You use this system all the time unconsciously and without it we would all be in a world of trouble.

Proprioception can grossly be viewed as a child of your Somatosensory System.  Proprioception is more specific to muscles, joints, and extremities and is a big part of how we know where our body parts are without looking at them.  I do a lot of work with the geriatric population and much of the reason seniors are falling at an alarming rate is that many are not utilizing proprioception, and are completely depending on their vision for walking.  When you walk, proprioception is what tells you that you are putting your right foot in front of your left ; or allows you to adapt to walking on grass without losing your balance.  In the absence of proprioception, we would all be walking and looking at our feet to make sure they went where we intended and when walking on grass we would be intently watching every step to analyze the change in surface.

Mechanoreceptors are the sensory receptors or data collectors for proprioception.  Your muscles and tissues have these sensory receptors in them to collect the information of how they are being distorted, or how they are receiving pressure and this information translates into the proprioceptive abilities I described above.

All of this neuroscience talk is a big deal for Le’Veon Bell and any one else recovering from a sprained knee or ankle.  During the process of injury, the muscles and ligament are obviously stretched.  The less obvious observation is that the mechanoreceptors in the area also suffer injury.  This mechanoreceptor injury has a domino effect.   Without functioning mechanoreceptors, Bell will have some proprioceptive deficits which means that his knee may not be as precise with knowing when its extended to 0 degrees or when it is moving into hyperextension.  Similarly to with the common sprained ankle, the ankle and foot may not be precise with knowing whether the foot is completely flat or slightly turned in.  When this occurs with the ankle, you may put your foot down while its turned in and just like that you have re-sprained your ankle.  For Le’Veon Bell’s knee, he may plant his leg thinking his knee is bent 5 degrees when in fact it is extended beyond 0 degrees and just like that he will hyperextend it again.

With his mechanoreceptors and proprioception operating at a deficit, we can conclude that his Somatosensory system is also working at a deficit.  For a running back this is bad news as his activity during a game is unpredictable and he has to depend on his body and his neurological systems to react and keep up with his moves.  Many other football positions have more routine and will not challenge the Somatosensory system as much; such as quarterback, who if protected will make his drop and throw, or turn and hand off;  or a wide receiver who knows exactly where to go before they do it. As a running back, Bell has to react all game and if his Somatosensory system is not on point, there is a good chance he hyperextends that knee again.

With all that said there are some remedies that can protect Bell from re-injury.  The most straight forward remedy is a knee brace with a dial lock that would not allow his knee to extend beyond 0 degrees which would protect him from hyperextension.  That may seem like a no-brainer to some but for a dynamic back like Bell, this would likely feel like a hinderance to his agility.  Taping is another option.  Taping is a way to give increased support to a particular area that may not be at full strength.  In this case we can assume that Bell suffered some excess stretching to his distal hamstring fibers, and re-enforcing that area may give him more stability if his knee tries to hyperextend.

knee brace
You may see Le’Veon Bell later in the playoffs with a brace that looks something like this. Expect his to be less bulky and as light as possible. The dial that you see right at the knee would be locked at 0 degrees to avoid re-injury.

What you need to know

First and foremost what you need to know is that these athletes and these medical teams in the NFL are special.  DeMarco Murray completely proved me wrong to the 4th power and to some extent his situation humbled me to respect how continuous the progressions in healthcare are, despite the fact that I am a part of it.  I would estimate that the NFL is 5 to10 years ahead of the most progressive parts of our country in regards to medicine.

As I am editing this post, I hear that Bell has been officially ruled out.  Now to be truthful, I was going to write that I thought that he would play and that he would wear a brace.  Ultimately I was projecting him to be more of a decoy and expected a somewhat poor performance and possible re-injury.  I agree with this decision by the Steelers to hold him out.  The Steelers are likely smart to do this, as if they are to move on in the playoffs, which is quite possible considering the injuries the Ravens have in the secondary, they will need Bell in the line-up.  This injury should likely be a 2-3 week recovery process and with the playoffs accelerating the healing time, I think there is a good chance that Bell will be available for whoever the Steelers get after the Ravens.

For those playing daily fantasy, the play is definitely to start Big Ben and Antonio Brown as the Ravens are poor vs. the pass and very good vs. the run.  With Bell out, this game is almost exclusively in Big Ben’s hands.  I think we will all keep an eye on Bell’s recovery if the Steelers advance, but I would expect him to play if they do; maybe with a brace or maybe without.

Good Luck!

Could Injury Really Cause A Peyton Manning Led Team To Miss The Playoffs?

November 22, 2014

You can type in “NFL injuries” in any search box and get the details of who is in and who is out, that is the easy part.  The more important questions are how long will they really be out? Will they actually play well when they come back?  What players are at highest risk to get hurt next?  How will one injury affect the performance of other players?  Being caught off guard by any of these issues could derail your fantasy line-up at a time where you can not afford any glitches.  For many, playoff time is coming and for you one-day fantasy players, your time is running out to win the big one.  I will discuss which injuries I see coming and which injuries I see going, and more importantly look at all of the angles that will decide whether you win or lose with your lineup.

Lets go by position:

Quarterback

Some of you have been unlucky and lost your starting QB.  Former fantasy owners of Nick Foles and Carson Palmer are the primary victims here.  For those who took the obvious option of picking up Mark Sanchez immediately after Foles got injured–good job!  I’m not too sure on Stanton and definitely would not feel good with him as my QB down the stretch with the vicious schedule that Arizona has remaining.  It is clear that neither of these QB’s (Foles and Palmer) will be back this year, or at least not in time to have a fantasy impact.

If you were not able to get in the Sanchez sweepstakes, then my suggestion would be to look at Shaun Hill as he is now injury free and the Rams have endured a tough schedule that will now lighten up just a little.  Another not so obvious option would be Zach Mettenberger, who I do not think is great by any stretch, but he has a great selection of defenses to face to close the season and a monster arm.  Last but not least is a stretch for most, but I believe Colt McCoy will finish the Washington Redskins season as a starting QB.  McCoy is also not the greatest but he will literally be playing for his NFL career, he has a ton of weapons, and he has good match ups.  I would spend a little time telling you how McCoy gets that job, but if you have a TV, a phone, or any type of electronic device I am sure that you have seen the train wreck that is RG3.

My bet is you can get any of those 3 players today and even if they just sit on your bench while you have another borderline QB playing, you will not end up in the back of the waiver line if they get hot.

peyton-manning-in-cold-weather
Fantasy owners and Peyton Manning may miss the RCA dome as this season goes down the stretch.

As for the great Peyton Manning, he is being hit by the injury bug indirectly.  With his number 1 and 2 running backs out, Julius Thomas’ status being unclear at Tight End, and his number 2 Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders just being cleared from concussion protocol; the future Hall of Fame QB may have the deck stacked against him.  Combine the injuries with the fact that his next 4 opponents all currently rank in the top ten for total defense and that 3 out of those 4 games are likely to be played in cold weather, and you may just have given the ingredients for the kryptonite recipe.  The only thing that may be missing is whipping winds and a few snow flurries.  In any case, those who pay close attention know what bothers Peyton.  When he is pushed off his spot, he is obviously uncomfortable.  When he has to hold the ball, he is uncomfortable.  With these defenses and bad weather coming, I project some sub Manning like numbers.  Now I am not talking Alex Smith mediocrity, but chances are that Peyton is carrying your fantasy team in any league play and he is eating up your salary cap in any one-day play; so you absolutely need him to put up Manning like numbers.

While I do not see a day in which I tell you to sit Peyton Manning unless it is for Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers, I think Manning owners should prepare for a more conservative output and therefore be aggressive with the remainder of the roster.  For Peyton and the Denver Broncos, I see very little chance of not making the playoffs, but for my fellow fantasy players this tough stretch falls right at a crucial time in regard to fantasy playoffs.  In the end start Peyton as usual, unless you see wind and snow in the forecast; then I may look for one of the QB’s I listed above to hold the fort for one week.  This is the closest I will get to betting against Peyton Manning and frankly it feels a little uncomfortable.  Lets see what he does over the next month.

Running Back

Running Back becomes very important in November and December as many of the outdoor teams will start to slow it down with hand-offs and short dump off passes.  However as these running backs have their workload increased you may also see more injuries.  I predicted way back in the first half of the season that DeMarco Murray would not make it through the entire season and now that its week 12, some may think I was wrong……NOT!  All of you DeMarco Murray owners better have a back up plan, because it’s coming.

Another running back to beware of is Arian Foster.  Earlier this season, I compared Foster to Steven Jackson as he is an oversized back who gets injured regularly.  He is living up to this comparison and if he does not do something different this off-season ( I would suggest some type of Yoga/Pilates blend and a very clean diet), I think you should think long and hard before drafting Foster early.  As you can see, when you need Foster most he will not be there for you.  At this point, I don’t think anyone will get caught off guard with Foster being out as he seems to be on the injury reports on a weekly basis.  The important thing is to not get your hopes up with this “game time decision” talk.  I do not see him making it back in an effective way this week as he is only been out for 2 weeks with a groin injury that should likely take at least 3 weeks to heal.   We explained the nagging groin strain a few weeks ago when predicting Monte Ball needed 3-6 weeks off before returning.  As most of you know, Monte Ball did sit out for 6 weeks and then re-injured his groin on his first game back.  Hopefully that lets you and Arian Foster know how serious this injury can be. The easy fix is to keep Alfred Blue on your bench no matter what. If you do own Foster or Murray or maybe even had Ronnie Hillman or Ahmad Bradshaw, there are a few options out there for you to consider:

Arian+Foster+Houston+Texans+v+New+England+F250cpNTtbDl

C.J. Anderson could not have timed it better in regard to fantasy playoffs.  With Ronnie Hillman down for at least another 2 weeks with a foot sprain (that should take a total of 3 weeks to heal) and Monte Ball out again with a strained groin , C.J. Anderson will basically have the backfield to himself.  I expect Hillman to come back by week 14 and I expect Ball to be a non factor for the remainder of the fantasy season as his re-injury tells me he really needs to give that groin another 3 weeks  or more to heal and then return slowly (I don’t expect him to play until the NFL playoffs).  Furthermore, Peyton plus the cold means more running plays and more short passes.  The only fear is that the volume that Anderson receives in the next few weeks will get him injured too.  The good news on that front is that this is almost like game 4 for Anderson, as he has not played much this season.  In my opinion he is the top running back to pick up down the stretch.  Do anything you can to get him for your leagues and one-day players should spend whatever he cost to get him in the line up.

Another back who’s fantasy value just got a big boost is Trent Richardson.  I say this reluctantly as prior to this injury, I literally considered him a bottom 10 back that I would never consider starting.  However, the bottom line is Ahmad Bradshaw and his fractured fibula means he is done, and for now Trent will get all the goal line carries as well as a likely 20+ total carries per game.  In a more traditional running back way, I think this will actually help Trent Richardson, who has the potential to be a wear on you/hard to stop at the end of the game back.  The final kicker is really to look at the Colts remaining schedule.   There are some blowouts coming and you know who will be killing that clock, even if it is 3 yards at a time.  Look for some fantasy numbers in the form of 25 carries for 72 yards with 2 touchdowns with 2-3 catches sprinkled in.  I think many of us can live with those 20 + fantasy points.

Giovani Bernard appears to be ready to return for week 12 and based on reports of a hip pointer and a clavicle issue, he appears to have taken the proper time off.  For some, this may seem to be a good thing, but I look at this as a lose-lose situation for fantasy owners.  Jeremy Hill showed the ability to be a fantasy stud while Bernard was out and Bernard was a stud before he got hurt.  When you put two fantasy studs in one backfield, unfortunately they turn into one half a stud each.  If you already have Bernard and are in a PPR format, he is definitely worth keeping, but I do not see the Bengals taking Hill back to his previous role of simply spelling Bernard.  I see a backfield that will almost be half and half which is a disaster for fantasy owners.  If you can trade either of these player based off of name value, now would be a good time.  Jeremy Hill owners may consider sitting tight for a couple of games, as Bernard is undersized and as the cold weather sets in, he may be in line for another injury.  If I could pick, I would much rather the style of Hill to carry me to the fantasy playoffs, but by no means would I wish injury on any player.

Wide Receiver

It appears that the wave of wide receiver injuries is over with Megatron, A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, and Odell Beckham Jr. all back and healthy.  Despite this abundance of health at the position, there are some injuries that will make some receivers more attractive than others.

ty hilton

T.Y. Hilton is already a must own everywhere but for you one-day fantasy players who are comparing T.Y. to Dez or Megatron or Jordy Nelson on a weekly basis, here is the reason why T.Y. might have eclipsed many of them.  With the injury to Ahmad Bradshaw, the Colts have lost their only receiving back.  Additionally, the Colts have an injury to their best tight end Dwayne Allen.  Allen is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury but I expect him to miss at least one game or at the very least see less time on the field.  This means more Coby Fleener during the competitive portion (there will be garbage time for Trent Richardson to get his!) of the Colts games; it means less running as Allen is the obvious running game tight end while Fleener is the passing game tight end.  T.Y. is by far the most targeted player for Andrew Luck and these injury developments likely just increased his targets.  As we hit the stretch for the fantasy season, I think T.Y. Hilton will be as good as it gets at the receiver position.

Demaryius Thomas may also get a little bump up from his already superstar status after The Dnever Broncos lost Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas in week 11 to injuries.  Sanders went down with a concussion and looks to be probable for week 12, however there is evidence out there that correlates concussions to poor performance shortly after recovery from said concussion.  As for Julius Thomas, he appears to have a simple low ankle sprain but he likely will miss a couple of weeks.  This sets up for Demaryius to have an even bigger role in the Broncos pass game.  We may even get a Wes Welker flash back for my fantasy league players who are desperate for a short-term play at receiver.

Brandin Cooks thumb fracture has effectively ended both his fantasy and real football seasons.  This means someone who is healthy on the Saints likely gets more targets as Cooks was the second most targeted player on the team to Jimmy Graham, and the most targeted receiver on the team.  This is a tough call between Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, but I would take a chance on Colston as Drew Brees targets him more than Stills, and Brees and Colston have more history.  This must be a cautious play as Cooks injury may actually just lead to Colston, Stills and who ever replaces Cooks to split the targets by 3, which would make no one happy.  This may be one to take a look at for a week or two before making a move.

Now this one has nothing to do with an injury per say, but those who read my work often know that I split my skilled players into Freaky Talented and Supremely Skilled.  Around this time of season the Freaky Talented group will start to slow down as the weather elements may not be ideal for their talents to fully shine.  Additionally, it is my theory that these Freaky Talented athletes need pit stops to rejuvenate as they max their bodies out while utilizing all of their god given talent.  But if I can get one of the most Freaky Talented players in the league with completely fresh legs at this point in the season, I am all over that!.  Josh Gordon is exactly that.  Not only does the physical play in his favor, but the mental sounds like it is ready too. One of the first quotes given to nfl.com from Gordon was “I’m going to tear this league up”.  If your league is anything like the one I am in, Gordon has been owned all year despite not playing…he is that coveted.  If there is any way to get him, I would go for it.  For one-day fantasy players, this may be the only week you will get him cheap.  After he faces the worst pass defense in the league down in Atlanta, my guess is that his price will be right up there with the elite wide receivers where it belongs.

Marqis Lee is a low-level benefactor of the foot fracture that Allen Robinson suffered.  This consideration is more for the one-day fantasy players who have the bare minimum to spend on a flex player that has the chance to actually do something.  The two things I think I know is that Lee will now be on the field in all 3 wide receiver sets (with Robinson out) and that Lee has lots of talented.  Everything beyond that is a gamble….your choice.

Tight End

As I mentioned earlier, the Dwayne Allen injury may officially push Coby Fleener to the TE1 conversation.  Fleener has been inconsistent despite being Andrew Luck’s teammate in college, but now he appears to be ramping up.  1-2 weeks of Allen being out may generate a role for Fleener that will become a little more permanent int the Colts offense.  Additionally, if Trent Richardson does not take advantage of his opportunity like I think he will, you may see the Colts just turn into a pure passing team in which Fleener stays on the field a bunch more as run blocking would not be needed.  I would keep my eye on Fleener in fantasy leagues and pick him up if a roster spot is available.  He is also a good one-day play if you don’t want to spend on one the big three of Gronk, Graham, or Thomas.

Some of you may be waiting for Jordan Cameron to be cleared from the concussion protocol and are ready to plug him in as your starter.  I would look in another direction.  Again, performance after concussions can be tricky and with the reports indicating Cameron having some long-term concerns, I would simply stay away from Cameron this year.  Any return will be on egg shells and the likelihood of poor performance or another concussion is a very real possibility.

Tight End is a tough position to pick up late in the season and in most cases the match up should dictate who you play, but there are a few that you may be able to pick up and fill in with.  Zach Ertz had a big buzz at the beginning of the season but that buzz has faded fast.  I am not saying Ertz will win any week for you but I think the addition of Mark Sanchez to the equation allows him to not lose a week for you.  Sanchez and Ertz have a relationship that ranges from preseason as they both had significant 2nd team reps.  Sanchez is definitely looking for him more than Foles did.  Now all Ertz has to do is find a way to stay on the field for more snaps and you may have a decent TE2.

Defense/Special Teams

The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to get real healthy and are likely sitting there waiting to be picked up in most leagues.  With the return of 5 starters including their leader-Troy Polamalu as well as the addition and rejuvenation of the great James Harrison, the Steelers may look like the traditional Pittsburgh Steelers down the stretch.  The tricky thing with these injuries is that when the players make it through and the team stays competitive, the return from injury is that much greater.  The Steelers should have a lot of fresh legs on the field vs. many who are simply worn down from the grind of a 16 game season.

sproles punt
Sproles may be the biggest little reason to start the Eagles DST!

The Philadelphia Eagles should be on everyone’s radar as they are having a near historic year on Special Teams with punt blocks, field goal blocks, and even extra point blocks.  Combine this with arguably a top 3 punt-return man in Darren Sproles and Chris Polk who already has a kick return for a TD and you would think picking them up is a no brainer.  But then the leader of the defense Demeco Ryans goes down and Aaron Rodgers puts up a million points.  I can see how people may get nervous about this being their starting defense.  As bad as the Demeco Ryans injury is for the actual defense, I think the response to the injury by the Eagles is even more telling.  Instead of looking for another linebacker to replace Ryans or even just looking for another defensive player, the Eagles signed Chris Prosinski.  Posinski is a safety from Jacksonville who is primarily a Special Teams stud.  They added him to a Special Teams that already boast Chris Maragos who is arguably the Michael Jordan of Special Teams.  So while losing your middle linebacker is bad, the Eagles may have gotten even better with rushing the quarterback by bringing more speed and agility to the linebacker position with Mychal Kendricks as the new focal point.  The bigger point is that I don’t think any other team in the league takes Special Teams as serious as the Eagles and frankly that is where all the points are coming from rather than the actual defense.  They should be the premiere DST going down the stretch in all formats despite losing the leader of their defense for the remainder of the season.

Good Luck

Foster, Stewart, Matthews: what is the common thread?

Arian Foster, Jonathan Stewart, and Ryan Matthews are all out with leg injuries.  Both Stewart and Matthews are out with knee sprains and Foster is down with the infamous hamstring injury.

 

The Science

Running back is arguably the most injury susceptible position there is.  Their combination of speed, repetitions, and contact endured is not only unrivaled in football but is likely unrivaled in any other sport or activity.  With the extrinsic (things coming from the outside) factors that these guys face such as defensive lineman, linebacker and full speed defensive backs, who needs intrinsic (things coming from the inside) factors!

When you look at these 3 backs, their intrinsic factors are exactly why I think you will see them on the injury report often.  The average NFL running back weighs about 215 lbs.  Foster, Stewart and Matthews are 229 lbs, 235 lbs, and 218 lbs respectively.  While Matthews is close, my guess is if he got on a scale right now, it’s not that close.  In any case, much of the force for a running back is absorbed by the major muscles in their legs.  These muscles are primarily their quadriceps and hamstrings which are the major movers and protectors of the knee.  Some may argue that the gluteal muscles should be included but I consider these muscle more important in the pelvic and trunk area and less susceptible to injury.  The reason why you see so many knee injuries is that these backs are wearing these muscles out with all of the stress they put on them.

Our muscles are the first line of defense to our joints, I call them the body guards.  If your quads and hamstrings are strong and fresh, you can jump, cut, run and your knee-joint won’t get any of that rough impact because those big, strong, energy filled body guards (quads and hamstrings) are protecting the knee-joint.  However as they fatigue or become weak after a hit or a fall, your knee-joint has loss its first level of defense.  In many cases this scenario ends in a knee strain which means the muscle couldn’t keep up and had to work so hard that it failed and needs a break.  (Strain always refers to muscle-not ligaments). I think it is understandable how this is more likely to happen if you are carrying 15-20 lbs of extra weight.

Your joints next line of defense are the ligaments.  After muscles fail, ligaments jump in and do what they can.  Ligaments can only offer a certain amount of protection and if the force is too great (too hard a cut, a direct blow to the knee, too much force from a hard fall), they will also fail.  When the ligament fails, it is called a sprain (Sprain always refers to ligaments-not muscle).  In many cases this is why you see the reports say a sprain/strain injury–it signifies that both the muscle and ligament failed in some way (or in some cases it means the trainer or doctor aren’t sure and just want to let the MRI do all the work, but you didn’t hear that from me)

When sprains or strains are severe they become tears (although technically there may be some level of tearing in the less severe sprains and strains also).  Luckily these players are not dealing with tears.

With most running backs averaging about a 4.6 second – 40 yard dash time, making at least 1 cut during each play and being contacted on nearly every touch; the load on these major muscles are immense.  Outside of the athletic world a man who is about 6 feet tall should roughly weigh about 180 lbs.  Many of these backs are shorter than 6 feet and in fact if you average these 3 backs, they are an average height of about 5′ 11″.  While we know that they have more muscle mass than the average man, we also know that muscle is dense  and although many of their additional pounds may be muscle, the bottom line is that those joints are made to carry about 180 lbs.  If you work out, then you are likely aware that BMI calculations are pretty much blind.  You can have virtually no fat and be 235 lbs and be considered obese by BMI calculations.  Unfortunately your joints are blind too.  They don’t admire your muscular physique, they simply carry you, move you, absorb the shock when you land, and take the impact when your hit.

Scientifically speaking, these guys are simply carrying too much weight for the duties their bodies require to be a running back.  With 5-10 more pounds either, Foster or Stewart could play outside linebacker.  The difference is a linebacker cuts much less often, runs for much shorter distances, and delivers impact (rather than receive impact) in most cases.  There is a reason that these draft scouts and strength/conditioning coaches put these players on the scale.  There are ideal weights for different positions and frankly these 3 are above that weight and are likely to continue to be at a higher risk for injury.

What you need to know

Although my description above makes these backs similar, they are very different when it comes to how it impacts you.  Foster used to be a fantasy stud but at 229 lbs and 28 years old, I feel like he is headed to Steven Jackson comparisons (when’s the last time Jackson played a full season?).  Running backs slow down around 29 or 30 years old anyway, but the heavier ones start a little earlier.  He will continue to play for 2-3 more years but at this point I wouldn’t listen to any fantasy advice that considers him to still be an elite fantasy option.  I also wouldn’t expect the Texans to do much without him….their backfield outlook is gloomy Blue (get it).

Ryan Matthews has a slightly better outlook only because he is 26 years old and is still at a point where he may change regimens and slim down.  I still would watch his weight on the official side but also with the eye test.  If he appears to be adding muscle or fat, I would leave him alone. He has already shown to be somewhat injury prone and is not near the stud that Foster was a few years ago.

As for Stewart, not much to talk about.  He only made the conversation because of his weight and the fact that he is also injured right now.  I don’t think I have to tell anyone who is smart enough to read this entire piece what to do with Stewart.  Maybe one day Carolina will get a running back that makes sense.  For a running back, DeAngelo Williams is a senior citizen; and Stewart and Tolbert are obviously enjoying that Carolina barbecue.  Please don’t hurt me……I do live in the Carolinas…..on second thought no I don’t.

All things considered, each of these backs will be back this season, but that is not the point.  What you must consider if you rely on them for fantasy or rely on them to help their teams win; is that they are not reliable.  These minor injuries and day-to-day statuses will continue with them until they decide to trim down.