Written by Tom Christ, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
It’s playoff time, people! Football fans worldwide are gearing up for what should be an excellent first weekend of playoff football. We have six matchups spanning from Saturday through Monday night. As always, in football, we have some injury implications to discuss. The Wild Card, Weekend Injury Report, is shorter than usual but still is a must-read for those playing daily fantasy or placing prop bets.
Wild Card Weekend Injury Report: Quarterbacks
Jackson suffered a PCL injury in week 13 and is yet to play or even practice since. From the time of injury, I have been pessimistic about Jacksons’ rest-of-season outlook due to the role of the PCL in his style of play. Keep in mind the role of the PCL, which I explain in the video below. The PCL is important for knee stability and proprioception (bodies awareness of where the limbs are without looking). Jackson is an electric running because of his ability to cut on a dime without hesitation. With a PCL injury, the loss of stability impacts the crispness of cutting, and the loss of proprioception impacts an athlete’s confidence during his cuts.
To make matters worse, Jackson is still dealing with considerable swelling in his knee. Swelling impacts function dramatically, especially in the knee. The anatomical structure of the knee allows it to swell easily. Swelling can occur both within the joint itself and in the space just outside the joint. This is why we often see knees become very puffy when injured. Additionally, gravity plays a major role in the knee collecting swelling. Many of the cells present within a swollen knee contribute to pain. Pain itself inhibits muscle function. Even without pain, the swelling also inhibits muscle function. In combination, the swelling, plus the impact on stability and proprioception from this injury, makes it very challenging for a player like Jackson to be near 100%. This injury would not impact a pocket passer nearly as much as an elite running quarterback like Jackson. It does not look like he will play this week, and if he does, he won’t be near 100%.
Tua has been ruled out for the Wild Card matchup against the Bills as he continues to recover from his second (probably third) concussion of the season. Let’s remember that previous concussions make one more susceptible to subsequent concussions. Meaning less impact is required to cause another concussion. Additionally, subsequent concussions take longer to recover from. It is no surprise that Tua will now miss his third consecutive game. The Dolphins will have a hard time taking on Josh Allen and the motivated Bills without their starting quarterback.
Lawrence continues to deal with the same toe injury discussed in the previous several weeks. This has not slowed him down to date, as he is playing the best football of his career. While Lawrence is limited in practice to start the week, there is no reason for concern now.
With Tua out, the Dolphins hope to have backup Teddy Bridgewater ready to go. Bridgewater continues to rehab his dislocated right pinky finger and his knee injury. A pinky injury seems harmless on the surface, but footballs are large, and gripping a football takes all five fingers! When a finger dislocates, often ligaments are injured (ligaments typically hold the bones in place, preventing dislocation). When a ligament is injured, this creates pain, swelling, and instability. All three of these factors will impact a player’s ability to grip a football and, thus, his ability to throw accurately and prevent fumbling.
Ligaments take several weeks-months to heal, depending on the grade of injury. In many cases, surgical repair is needed. It does not appear that Bridgewater needs surgery at this time, though Miami may just be delaying surgery in hopes he can rehab enough to play.
It does not look like Bridgewater will play this week, and if he miraculously does I do not expect him to be at 100%. I would expect several inaccurate balls and possibly more fumbles than usual. Whether it’s an injured Bridgewater or a healthy Skyler Thompson, this does not bode well for the Dolphin’s offense.
Huntley missed week 18 with both shoulder and wrist injuries. He was limited in practice on Wednesday but was not seen throwing. Both joints can negatively impact a thrower. The shoulder must have an adequate range of motion and strength to throw with accuracy and power. His shoulder injury is unclear, but any sprain or strain can create pain and swelling. Pain and swelling can inhibit muscle function and reduce the range of motion on the throw, thus reducing power.
The wrist is vital for gripping and finessing the ball. Subtle wrist motion at the end of the throwing motion is critical in applying a tight spiral with a sprain, similar to the shoulder above; pain and swelling impact strength and range of motion.
Hopefully, with last week off to recover, Huntly is closer to 100%. We will continue to monitor practice reports, but Huntley will likely not be at 100%, impacting his throwing numbers. This could mean even more rushing attempts for the Ravens.
Wild Card Weekend Injury Report: Running Backs
Mostert suffered a thumb fracture in week 18, and his status for the Wild Card game is unclear. A thumb fracture has many negative implications on a running back, but with heavy bracing or casting, he actually could play.
The thumb obviously allows an athlete to grip and manipulate a football, making it essential for a running back. While the thumb is fractured, Mostert is dealing with pain and swelling that will impact his thumb mobility and grip strength. Both will negatively impact his ability to hold onto the football, catch, and block. Without immobilizing the thumb, it won’t heal properly. He will likely be in a cast or heavy brace to hold the thumb in place, allowing it to heal and giving protection.
He can play with a cast or brace but will be restricted in what he can do. He will only be able to be used as a runner and will have to carry the ball in the opposite arm. He will be unable to contribute in the passing game due to the clunkiness of the brace or cast and the immobilized position of his thumb. He also likely won’t be able to block very well. All this considered, if Mostert does play, his snap rate will be reduced, and the Dolphins will rely on Jeff Wilson much more, especially on passing downs.
Edwards has not yet cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol and missed Wednesday’s practice. We will continue to monitor his status, but missing Wednesday does not create optimism for his Wild Card weekend outlook.
Wild Card Weekend Injury Report: Wide Receivers
Williams left Sunday’s game on the cart after suffering a back injury. Luckily, an X-ray and MRI ruled out any structural damage, and Williams appears to be dealing with simply a contusion and likely muscle spasms.
Reports only say a contusion (bruise), but any time an injury occurs, the body protects via muscle spasms and muscle guarding. Often lingering pain after the injured tissue has healed is due to persisting muscle guarding. The contusion alone can impact muscle function. A contusion is simply swelling, creating pain and inhibiting muscle function. In the back, this is seen as stiffness and unwillingness to move.
For Williams to play, he will have to demonstrate the ability to perform football motions pain-free or with little enough pain to perform at a high level. This is possible in the given time frame (LAC plays Saturday night). Following local beat reporters will be critical this week. If Williams feels well enough to play, this injury should not limit his per-play upside but could limit his snap count.
Waddle is dealing with an ankle injury but is not expected to limit him on Sunday. Ankle injuries are tricky for a player like Waddle, who relies on his speed and quickness. An ankle injury can limit agility and explosiveness due to the injures impact on stability, sensory awareness (proprioception), and pain.
Most ankle injuries are sprains, an injury of one of the many ligaments. These ligaments are essential for the stability of the ankle, as well as proprioception (brains awareness of where limbs are without looking). An athlete cannot push off the ground as quickly and forcefully without proper stability. Without proper proprioception (discussed at length last week with Lamar Jackson), an athlete cannot cut as precisely and confidently. Pain inhibits motion, and athletes cannot create as much speed and power when running on a painful ankle.
That last paragraph was to educate readers on ankle sprains but is not necessarily what Waddle’s situation will be. The severity of a sprain makes a significant difference in the ability to play. A minor sprain, which Waddle’s is described as, sees very little to no loss of stability and proprioception. With a minor sprain, athletes can typically tape it up and be ready to go. As of this writing, the reports suggest Waddle will be fine. The bigger concern will be his quarterback situation.
Higgins missed Wednesday’s practice as he deals with an illness. It will be important to continue to monitor Higgins’s practice activity ahead of Sunday night’s game.
Julio’s injury-riddled season continues. Jones suffered a PCL injury early in the year and it appears to continue to impact him. A description of the PCL injury can be seen above in the Lamar Jackson section. I do not expect Julio to make much of an impact if he plays.
McKenzie is rehabbing a hamstring injury going into the wild card weekend and was limited in practice on Wednesday. Practicing in any capacity on Wednesday is a good sign, but hamstring injuries often impact receivers significantly in their first game after suffering the injury.
On average, receivers see a decline of 2.7 fantasy points compared to the pre-injury baseline. The reason this impacts receivers more than other positions is how much they run. The strain on the hamstring increases dramatically when increasing sprint speed from 80-100%. In order to get up to 100% sprint speed, an athlete needs 40-50 yards. Receivers are the only position that routinely runs this far on a given play.
McKenzie’s game is built on his speed and quickness. I do expect this to limit him on Sunday.
Wild Card Weekend Injury Report: Tight Ends
Fant missed Tuesday’s walkthrough with a vague knee sprain. Reports at this time are not concerning for Fant missing Saturday’s Super Wild Card kickoff game. Any knee injury could slow down an athlete’s agility and sometimes straight-line speed. However, Fant being a big-bodied tight end, can use his size to create passing lanes and is unlikely to be impacted by this minor injury.