Written by Tom Christ, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Before diving into the week 18 injury report, I wanted to take a moment to say that all of us at the 32 Beat Writers continue to hope and pray for the health of Damar Hamlin. What happened to Damar on Monday night was truly a tragedy and reminds us how delicate life can be. Our deepest thoughts and prayers remain with him and his family during this challenging time.
Somehow, as Damar continues to fight for his life, football will go on this weekend. While the fantasy season is over, I recognize that many people continue to play daily fantasy. For this reason, I will continue to analyze the significant injuries impacting fantasy-relevant players through the Super Bowl. Let’s dive in!
Week 18 Injury Report: Quarterbacks
Hurts participated in practice in a limited fashion to start this week. Hurts was able to practice last week as well and was reported to be throwing the ball well. The MVP candidate will push to play against the New York Giants to help his team wrap up the number one seed in the NFC. Should fantasy players be concerned about his injury? The short answer is no. I explain the sternoclavicular joint (SC joint) mechanics during the throwing motion, and how injury could affect a throw in the video below.
From the start, Hurts injury was never believed to be significant. Three weeks should be enough time for the Eagles training staff to ensure proper mobility of the SC joint has been restored and thus, proper range of motion at the shoulder. I could only see Hurts fantasy value being hindered by this injury if the Eagles decide to call fewer designed runs for Hurts in an attempt to protect him. From a throwing standpoint, I doubt we see much impact.
Jackson continues to miss practice as he recovers from a PCL injury. I described the consequences of a PCL injury on a player like Jackson in last week’s post, and I encourage readers to return to that page for an in-depth analysis. Further discussion on his injury can be found in the video above.
In summary, while you can play without a fully intact PCL, it will still limit an athlete’s ability to cut on a dime with confidence. Jackson’s game is built on his legs. Sure he can throw, but without his peak rushing upside, he is not the same player. I have no doubt he can return to 100% by next season, but I don’t see it happening this year.
Tua will miss the regular season finale as he recovers from his second confirmed, but likely third concussion of the season. As mentioned last week, subsequent concussions take longer to recover from. Often, when a player has several concussions in one season, their brain becomes “sensitized.” This means it takes less impact to produce concussion symptoms. Miami is still battling for a playoff spot, so Tua’s status will be one to monitor if they can get in. If they do not make the playoffs, I expect Tua to be ready to go next season after an entire offseason to recover.
Fields will miss the season finale with a “strained hip.” No details have been provided on what muscle was strained, but the hip flexors can often be strained. This is not the type of injury that would linger into the offseason, so Fields should have the entire offseason to train.
Lawrence has been dealing with a toe injury for several weeks now, but it has not stopped him from performing at the highest level of his career. A toe injury can be very impactful for a football player. Luckily, Lawrence plays the position that is least likely to be negatively impacted by a toe injury.
The big toe undergoes 90 degrees of extension when running. When injured, this hurts a lot and can influence an athlete’s ability to push off when running, thus making them slower. We often see compensation where the athlete will turn their leg and foot outward to avoid rolling through the big toe.
Since Trevor has been able to play so well with this injury, there is no reason for concern in week 18.
Bridgewater is dealing with a dislocated pinky finger on his throwing hand. I know, the pinky seems invaluable, except that it’s really valuable! Footballs are not small. It takes all five fingers to properly grip the ball and throw it accurately!
With a finger dislocation, often the ligaments that support the finger are injured. Ligament injury causes swelling pain and, depending on how severe, can cause instability. With how small the fingers are, there is not much space to accommodate swelling. Because of this range of motion becomes significantly restricted when a finger is swollen. Without the full range of motion, gripping the football is a challenge.
For Bridgewater, we will have to wait and see if the pain and swelling can get under control. If not, Skyler Thompson is up again, as Tua has already been ruled out.
Week 18 Injury Report: Running Backs
McCaffrey is dealing with a minor ankle sprain and should be ready to go for week 18 despite not practicing on Wednesday. A sprain indicates injury to a ligament. Ligaments have a vital proprioceptive role, providing the body with sensory information on where the limb is in space without looking. Proprioception allows players to cut on a dime confidently without looking where they place their foot. This, amongst many other attributes, is what makes McCaffrey great.
Fortunately, McCaffrey’s injury appears minor; therefore, little to no impact on the ligament’s proprioceptive role is expected. Should McCaffrey suit up this week, you can expect typical CMC dominance.
The king missed week 17’s meaningless game with a vague hip injury but is off the injury report. He logged a full practice Wednesday and is ready to go against the Jaguars.
Reporting on Henry’s hip injury has been vague, making it impossible to provide accurate analysis. What is clear, however, is that it is minor. Any hip injury has the potential to slow down acceleration, cutting, and sprinting; however, with his being minor and a week off, there is no reason for concern. He likely would have played in week 17 if the game had any meaning. Fantasy players can fire up Henry as they typically would.
Elijah Mitchell is on the week 18 injury report after being designated to return from IR after his second significant MCL injury of the season. The MCL helps support the inside of the knee, preventing a valgus moment at the knee (knee caving inward). The MCL has good blood flow, allowing it to heal well, but this takes time. Challenges with rehabbing an MCL and ankle sprain include reducing blood flow, restoring full range of motion, and restoring balance and proprioception. The ability of the athlete to demonstrate single-leg stability is paramount in their ability to regain their athleticism.
Running backs average a decline of 2.5 fantasy points compared to their pre-injury average in their first game after an MCL sprain. With Christian McCaffrey the lead of the backfield, expect San Fransisco to ease Mitchell back into the lineup.
Pollard logged a full practice after returning from a thigh injury that shelved him for week 17. Thigh injuries are typically quad injuries. The quad is four strong, powerful muscles that help with acceleration, sprinting, cutting, jumping, and all athletic motions. Acceleration and top-end speed are what make Pollard great. Pollard practicing in full on Wednesday is positive, indicating that he is near 100%, but we may see some decline in his juice as he returns from this injury. Running backs average a decrease of 2.5 fantasy points from their pre-injury average in the first game returned from a quad injury.
Conner missed practice Wednesday due to a shin injury that knocked him out for part of week 17. X-rays were negative, so Conner is likely dealing with either a bruise or a strain to the foot and ankle extensor muscles. Coach Kingsbury is not concerned with Conner’s injury, indicating they may have just given him the day off. Keep monitoring Conner’s status throughout the week.
Week 18 Injury Report: Wide Receivers
Lockett missed practice Wednesday as he deals with both a shin injury and continues to heal from his metacarpal fracture a few weeks ago. Apparently, Lockett’s hand is not giving him any issues, which is astounding. Reports on the shin injury are vague. At this time, we do not know if it is a bone injury, a muscle injury, or a classic case of shin splints.
In any event, a shin injury could impact a player’s speed and agility, but typically these injuries feel better when a player gets warmed up. We will continue to monitor Lockett’s practice schedule ahead of their week 18 matchup against the Rams.
Samuel has returned to practice and has a shot at playing this week. Samuel suffered an MCL and ankle injury in week 14 when he was carted off the field. Luckily, the injury was less severe than initially thought.
A description of the MCL injury and its rehab can be found above with Elijah Mitchell. With an MCL injury, we see a significant decline of 4.2 fantasy points in the first game back for receivers. However, this stat should be taken lightly, as the sample size is only 7. San Fransisco will be cautious with bringing their star back to the field. If Samuel plays this week, it is hard to trust him to meet his standard production. For Samuel, however, a dip from his standard is still effective.
Hopkins’s season is over; he will miss week 18 with a knee injury. There are no specifics to his injury at this time, but no reports suggest it would linger into the offseason. Hopkins should be back at 100% next season.
Treylon Burks was added to the week 18 injury report with a groin (adductor muscle) injury. Burks will do everything he can to suit up Saturday as the Titans take on the Jaguars for the division title. The groin muscles are strong muscles that help an athlete remain stable on one leg. In athletics, specifically football, players are pretty much always on one leg. Receivers average missing 1.5 games with a groin injury, though plenty have played the next game without missing any time. Although the groins roll in, providing stability on one leg, the injury does not negatively influence the receivers’ fantasy output. Receivers only see a decline of 0.3 points from the pre-injury average, with nearly 50% meeting or exceeding their pre-injury average in the first game after a groin injury. If Burks plays, fantasy players do not need to fear this injury when projecting his output.
Meyers was limited in practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury. Meyers states that he is fine, but we will continue to monitor him. Shoulder injuries usually do not impact receiver production. Shoulder injuries do not affect running but obviously could be a cause for concern for catching the ball if adequate range and strength are not available. Typically, players will not be on the field if they don’t have sufficient shoulder range and strength. If Meyers plays, I do not expect much impact on his production.
Week 18 Injury Report: Tight Ends
Smith, who is returning from a high ankle sprain, was designated to return from the IR. Smith may not be activated ahead of the week 18 matchup, but will begin to practice.
High ankle sprains impact the ability of a player to cut. The ligaments that hold the tibia and fibula together are injured with a high ankle sprain. This creates a gap between the two bones. This gap between the tibia and fibula makes it hard to push off to generate power. With this much time to rehab, I expect Smith is close to ready to go. A concern after a significant ankle sprain is the development of chronic ankle stiffness. This can impact a player’s foot and ankle mechanics, with negative sequala up the chain, potentially contributing to injuries in the knee, hip, back, etc, down the road.
Tight ends average a significant decline of 5 fantasy points compared to the pre-injury baseline in the first game after a high ankle sprain. This stat, compounded with TJ Hockensen’s arrival, makes Smith hard to rely on if he plays.
Johnson did not practice Wednesday as he is dealing with a quad injury. An explanation of quad injuries can be found above with Tony Pollard. Tight ends average a decline of 1.2 fantasy points in the first game after a quad injury.