Dr. Budoff’s Week 12 Injury Update: Larry Fitzgerald, Julius Thomas, and Dwayne Allen


Dr. Jeffrey E. Budoff is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who wades through misleading coach-speak and vague team injury information to offer advice for your fantasy team. Here’s the Week 8 injury update.

Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald suffered a Grade 2 medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear of his knee during the first half of Week 11. While he briefly left the game he was able to return, play through it and finish the game, even though his 2nd half was not nearly as good as his first half.

Fitzgerald expects to play Week 12 against the Seahawks. Personally, I doubt it. Just because he can play through an injury while performing sub optimally doesn’t mean that he can play the next week. The injury often feels worse, much worse, the next day after swelling, inflammation and pain kick in overnight.

There are different MCL grading systems, one for MRIs and one for clinical examinations. I’m not sure which system his injury was graded on, but only the clinical examination grade really matters. A grade 2 clinical examination shows 5-10 mm of laxity greater than the other knee.  These injuries often require 2-4 weeks to heal enough to return to sports and play well. If Fitzgerald does play this Sunday, he’ll be wearing a brace, which will slow him down, and he won’t be able to cut or pivot at 100 percent. I wouldn’t expect top-end production from him, and I would try to find a better option for my starting fantasy lineup.

If I was his coach I would hold him out. Think about it. He’s a key player on a 9-1 team that will almost assuredly be in the playoffs. Why would you want to risk re-injury or delayed healing, when you’re going to need him later in the year?

Of course, on the other side of the ‘will he or won’t he play’ question is the whole slew of ill-advised coaching / training staff / player decisions that we’ve come to know and love from the NFL. Most recently, Montee Ball had a groin tear. He came back, but reinjured it early in Week 11’s game. A prudent move would have been to remove him from the game. But this is the NFL, and he went back into the game to suffer a more severe re-re-injury.  Now he’s not playing for the next few (2-3?) weeks, at a time when the Broncos could really use him. Similarly, Fred Jackson also tried to play ‘beat the clock’ and return early from a groin injury. Predictably, he didn’t play many snaps, and reinjured his groin the following Tuesday in practice, missing the following week’s division showdown. Now the Bills are in danger of missing the playoffs.

Should I even delve into the mysteries of why Roddy White and CJ Spiller insisted on playing (poorly) through injuries last year, ruining most of their 2013 seasons? Why Robert Gronkowski returned to play 5 weeks following surgical fixation of his forearm? Or why RG3 was returned to a 2012 playoff game against the aggressive and hard-hitting Seattle defense after injuring his knee that had previously had its ACL reconstructed? He then tore that ACL reconstruction, as well as damaging other knee ligaments, and has not yet returned to the level of play he demonstrated before his reinjury. After trading multiple high draft picks to aquire RG3 you’d think that Washington would want to protect its investment. Nah. It’s a macho game for manly men. Now RG3 may never be what he could have been and fans are calling for Colt McCoy to start over RG3.

Some fantasy football analysts have noted that it’s dangerous to assume rational coaching. I previously thought I’d simply assume rational medical decision-making. Now I’m not so sure even that’s a safe bet. So, even if the NFL coaches, trainers and players never learn and Fitzgerald tempts fate by playing this Sunday, compared to the aforementioned player injuries it’s probably still small potatoes as far as NFL injury mistakes go.

Julius Thomas and Dwayne Allen

Both Julius Thomas  and Dwayne Allen suffered low ankle sprains early in Week 11 and were held out the rest of the game. Finally, some sensible move to protect valuable players. The recent news is good, in that both injuries are considered minor. Thomas is not wearing a walking boot and is not limping.

Both are currently day to day and could play in Week 12. Depending on how they’re feeling, that’s reasonable. If they play, unless you’re in a shallow league, you probably won’t find a better option on waivers (maybe Coby Fleener, if he’s out there) so I’d start them with somewhat decreased expectations and my fingers crossed.