Dr. Sullivan’s NFL Week 1 Medical Report

Dr. Sullivan’s NFL Week 1 Medical Report

by September 16, 2020 0 comments

Football is back but so are the injuries. Each week I will take a look at the injuries that may impact your fantasy lineups, and will give a short rundown on the injury itself as well as what the recovery outlook will be.

Quite a few injuries occurred in Week 1. Let’s take a look at 10 of them and see how they will affect their teams going forward.

Michael Thomas (WR – New Orleans Saints)

Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday in the Saints win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Initially, he felt optimistic about the injury, but after further evaluation, he is now expected to miss several weeks. High ankle sprains are graded based on their severity and involved structures. Given the length of time he is expected to miss, I suspect he suffered at least a major grade 1 high ankle sprain.

The term “high ankle sprain” refers to an injury involving the ligaments on the inside of the ankle joint that occurs when the foot is forcibly turned outward from either a contact or non-contact injury. These injuries represent only 10% of all ankle sprains. Most high ankle sprains are treated conservatively using the R.I.C.E. concept of rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

A Level 1 high ankle sprain is considered a stable injury and requires 5-6 weeks of conservative therapy before returning to participation. A Level 2 high ankle sprain generally takes 8-12 weeks to completely heal and allow a return to participation. Persistent pain or swelling after the initial rehabilitative period may require more aggressive treatment. A level 3 High Ankle Sprain usually requires surgery to stabilize the bones of the lower extremity and allow the interosseous membrane to heal. A level 3 injury can take 6-12 months to completely heal and is usually season-ending when it occurs.


George Kittle (TE – SanFrancisco 49ers)

Kittle suffered what is being called a knee sprain in the 49ers loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. He was injured toward the end of the first half and went to the locker room early. He returned in the second half but had no targets. Based on reports from the 49ers they are cautiously optimistic he will be able to play in their next game against the New York Jets.

Recovery time for a Grade 1 mild sprain can range from a few days to a few weeks. The main issue is pain and swelling. Since he was able to return to action on Sunday, the severity of the injury seems to be mild. How he does through the rest of the week and whether he can participate in practice without significant pain or swelling will determine if he will be available on Sunday or not. His availability will warrant watching.

Leighton Vander Esch (LB – Dallas Cowboys)

Vander Esch suffered a clean fracture of his collarbone in the Cowboys loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He left the game in the first half and did not return. He is expected to undergo surgery to stabilize the fracture and will be placed on injured reserve with the ability to return while he heals. For an uncomplicated collarbone injury, the normal recovery time is six to eight weeks. The only thing that could lengthen that is if he has any complications from the surgery or if this injury impacted the neck surgical repair he had last year that kept him sidelined.

No mention of any damage to the neck area has been reported, however, given the previous injury and the close proximity to the previous injury, this possibility needs to be considered.

Phillip Lindsay (RB – Denver Broncos)

Lindsay suffered a mild turf toe injury in the Broncos loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. What is turf toe you say?: It is a hyperextension of the big toe or, more technically, a hyperdorsiflexion injury to the first metatarsalphalangeal (MTP) joint — the “ball” of the foot. It is called turf toe because it was initially associated with artificial turf but it can occur on natural grass and artificial turf. The name was coined back in 1976 when the injury was first described by Bowers and Martain at the University of West Virginia.

Recovery can take anywhere from a few days to several months depending on the nature of the damage done to the foot ligaments. He is expected to receive a second opinion on the injury today. Most turf toe injuries, which can be treated conservatively, heal in two to four weeks. I do not expect that he will be able to play in the Broncos week 2 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Le’Veon Bell (RB – New York Jets)

Bell suffered a mild to moderate hamstring sprain during the Jets loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Given the fact that he is being placed on IR, It is a more significant injury than just a “little pull”. He will be out of action for at least three weeks with his IR designation but I would expect probably a minimum of four weeks out before he will be ready to return.

I know everyone wants a player to return as quickly as possible, however with this type of injury, returning before fully healed can lead to more serious injuries. So let him heal and don’t try to rush him back to the field. If you want to read more about hamstring injuries, you can read my previous article on the subject here.

Courtland Sutton (WR – Denver Broncos)

Sutton did not participate in the Broncos Week 1 game against the Titans after suffering an AC joint sprain in practice on Thursday. Depending on the severity of the injury the normal recovery time can be as little as a week to as much as a few months. AC joint sprain is the most common of all football shoulder injuries and while 81.5% occur during a game, 18.5% occur during routine practices. This was the case with Sutton.

Joint stability and range of motion without pain are the two deciding factors in returning to the field. The average time missed with this injury, according to a Northwestern University study by Dr. T. Sean Lynch, MD, is 9.8 days. His availability for their Week 2 game against the Steelers will depend on how well he can practice this week. His status will bear watching as we get closer to the upcoming game against the Steelers.

DeVante Parker (WR – Miami Dolphins)

Parker left the Dolphins Week 1 game against the New England Patriots early after re-aggravating a hamstring injury that had sidelined him for a few weeks leading up to the first game of the season. Hamstring injuries, that are not allowed to heal properly can lead to further injury. Given his history this offseason, I think they will keep him out of practice and probably the game in Week 2 to avoid further more devastating injury.

James Conner (RB – Pittsburgh Steelers)

Conner suffered a simple ankle sprain in the Steelers Week 1 game against the New York Giants. His status will depend on how well pain and swelling are controlled and managed by the Steelers training staff. Recovery time for a minimal grade 1 sprain is from a few days to a few weeks. Based on statements by the Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin, they are hopeful he will be available for their Week 2 game.

If you want to learn more about sprains vs. strains check out my explanation of these two terms here.

Marlon Mack (RB – Indianapolis Colts)

Mack suffered a torn Achilles Tendon in the Colts loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday and will undergo surgery to repair it later this week. Once repaired, he will have a lengthy recovery period. How well he comes thru this injury remains to be seen. About 73% of players who suffer this injury are able to return to play at their former level of play.

Although the postoperative performance was worse in running backs and linebackers (vs. pre-injury), there was no difference in postoperative performance or number of games played for any position (except for linebackers) compared to rigorously matched control players in the league. At this point, we will wish him a speedy recovery and hope all goes well in his recovery so he can return to the field next season.

I covered this injury in more detail in my previous article on Achilles Tendon tears. You can find that information here.

Nick Kwiatkoski (LB – Las Vegas Raiders)

Kwiatkoski dodged a bullet when the Raiders reported Monday that an MRI revealed he had not suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the Raiders win over the Carolina Panthers. Despite getting good news, even a grade 1 strain could cause him to miss two to three weeks and his return will be based on pain control and range of motion of the muscle complex. I am fairly confident he will miss at least the Week 2 game against the New Orleans Saints.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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