Here’s a dictionary for major NBA injuries that players often encounter, with an emphasis on lower extremities i.e knees, ankles, etc. Use this as a guide for your fantasy rosters!
ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries often occur when an athlete quickly decelerates, followed by a sudden change in direction, also referred to as cutting. In football, athletes can often tear ACLs in other ways, ways which are often more damaging to the overall structure of the knee (which is why some ACL-related injuries are worse than others). For example, if the knee is hit from the side, more than just the ACL is being stressed and often torn. Like a door hinge, the knee joint is designed to bend and function in one direction – Forcefully bending in another direction is damaging to the joint. The major function of the ACL is to stabilize the knee. The femur (thigh bone) sits on top of the tibia (shin bone). The knee connects the two and acts as a joint. Without tight fitting ligaments to stabilize the knee, the joint would not be sound and would be subject to dislocations.The ACL, in particular, keeps the knee joint tight and does not allow the tibia to slide forward. An individual without an ACL is more prone to developing arthritis, cartilage tears and is more subject to dislocating the knee, which will often damage and tear the remaining three ligaments. Professional running backs usually cannot function fully without an ACL, because the position demands tremendous pivoting, deceleration, strenuous cutting and stopping — Again, all of which will ultimately lead to possible knee dislocation if an individual does not have an ACL — Dislocation would likely result in damage to the remaining knee ligaments.
It isn’t just the threat of dislocation that is the problem for a running back without an ACL — The knee is rarely ever tight fitting after an ACL tear and often feels “wobbly” and as if your knee will “give out” from under you. The instability has been said to feel like when one stands on top of a chair that feels unstable and could “give out” from under you.
What is an MCL tear?
The MCL (medial collateral ligament) is the ligament that runs along the inner (medial) portion of the knee, connecting the femur to the lower leg at the tibia (shinbone). It is arranged in the form of 2 flattened bands of connective tissue, one on top of the other (deep and superficial). It also contributes to the formation of the knee joint capsule.
It is frequently injured in skiing as it is the ligament that helps maintain lateral stability in the knee joint. In football, a hard blow to the outside of the knee directed inward while the foot is planted can cause injury to the MCL. Typically, the MCL is injured together with the ACL as it is rare for a collateral ligament to tear by itself. Surgery of the MCL itself is usually not necessary, and when it is necessary is generally lacking in complication.
What is an LCL tear?
The LCL (lateral collateral ligament) is the cord-like ligament that runs along the outside (lateral) portion of the knee, connecting the femur to the fibula, the skinny bone of the lower leg. Unlike the MCL, the LCL does not contribute to the formation of the joint capsule around the knee.
Although it is less frequently injured than the MCL or the ACL, the LCL is damaged most frequently in football when the knee buckles outward, either due to a faulty landing or from outward-directed contact just as the foot plants. Severe knee hyperextension can also result in an LCL injury. Similar to the MCL, an isolated LCL injury usually does not require surgery. Generally, the standard rest, ice, compression, elevation treatment is advised and a knee brace issued for one to several weeks. If the LCL is somehow severely torn in isolation from the other knee ligament structures, then surgery followed by a hard cast and several months of rehabilitation is frequently advised.
What is an PCL tear?
The PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) is a very strong ligament deep within the rear portion of the knee joint. It maintains knee joint stability by preventing excess movement of the tibia backward relative to the femur as well as assisting the MCL and LCL in lateral knee joint stability. It attaches from the back of the femur to the back of the tibia just under the ACL. It is comprised of 2 bands of connective tissue wrapped together. The bands alternately tighten and loosen when the knee is extended and bent.
Serious PCL injuries are very rare because of the amount of force necessary to damage the PCL. Generally, significant trauma above and beyond what would occur during a football game is necessary to tear the PCL. In order to damage this ligament during a football game, the knee would need to be bent and the foot planted as a forceful blow to the front of the knee and/or shin is delivered. Due to its scarcity of occurrence, studies involving PCL damage are few and far between relative to the number involving the ACL and/or MCL. PCL surgery is relatively rare even when the ligament is ruptured. It’s location and complexity makes surgery a risky procedure from which many surgeons abstain.
What is a Meniscus tear?
The meniscus refers to one of the two cartilaginous structures that help provide stability and integrity to the knee joint as it twists. When severely damaged, the meniscus can be either repaired or replaced completely (meniscus transplant). Unlike many tendons, a torn meniscus tends to get worse with time rather than better.
As a result, surgery is more likely to be prescribed. Generally, when referring to a “torn meniscus”, one is referring to a torn medial meniscus as it is far more likely to be damaged than the lateral aspect. Someone whose knee tends to lock in place probably has a meniscus tear that extends along the circumference of the meniscus. Meniscus problems are more likely in older players as the meniscus loses its elasticity with age and is more susceptible to tearing as well as degenerative conditions. Meniscus problems earlier in life are closely associated with the development of knee osteoarthritis.
What is a Hyper-Extended knee?
A hyperextended knee occurs when the knee joint is forced to extend forcefully beyond its normal range of motion. Normally, this is simply painful and can cause swelling for one to several days or weeks. The real problem occurs when ligament damage occurs which may require surgery. A severe hyperextension frequently results in damage to the ACL. Hyperextension itself rarely causes more than a few missed games.
Tibial Plateau Fracture
What is a Tibial Plateau Fracture?
Tibial Plateau Fracture – A plateau fracture occurs at the thickened portion of bone (the tibial “plateau”) at the top of the shin below the kneecap. The knee joint cartilage is involved and can frequently require months for recovery when severe. Severe hyperextension can sometimes lead to mild plateau fractures. Non-displaced plateau fractures involve hairline cracks that usually don’t require surgery but are very susceptible to reinjury in the following months. Displaced plateau fractures require surgery to reposition the knee joint and recovery can take several months because the knee must not bear weight until the fracture heals.
What is an Ankle Sprain?
An ankle sprain is a stretching or tearing of the many ligaments that stabilize the ankle joint. They typically occur when a player lands awkwardly from a jump or when someone lands on his foot and his ankle bends awkwardly. Sometimes a sprain occurs in particularly rough turf because a RB goes to cut and his foot stays planted in the turf while the rest of his body moves. The severity is usually measured as “grades” I, II and III.
- Grade I (mild) – slight tearing/overstretching of the ligaments, player can usually put weight on it and recover quickly using R.I.C.E..
- Grade II (moderate) – more pronounced tearing that usually prevents the player from putting weight on it. X-Ray/MRI is usually required
- Grade III (severe) – complete tearing of the ligament which can sometimes be mistaken for a broken bone (X-Ray rules this out).
If a player tries to play before healing properly, he can easily reinjure the area which can lead to chronic instability of the area.
High Ankle Sprain
What is a High Ankle Sprain?
A high ankle sprain involves a straining or tearing of the ligament (syndesmotic ligament) that holds the two bones (Tibia/shin bone and fibula) of the lower leg together near the ankle. It is particularly problematic because severe pain accompanies external (outward) rotation of the ankle as well as weakness and pain when the calf muscle is flexed. Recovery is more difficult because common ankle sprains heal more easily and an unstable high ankle sprain can require a screw be drilled into the lower leg to hold the low leg bones together while the ligament (slowly) heals. This can take at least 3 months or longer in reasonably severe cases and weight bearing during recovery can break the screw, setting back treatment several months.
What is turf toe?
Turf toe is a surprisingly nasty injury that occurs to the joint between the big toe and the rest of the foot. It is frequently the result of the toe hyperextending (i.e. the toe bends toward the shinbone) or being jammed into a hard surface. The two primary reasons this seemingly innocuous injury is so problematic is because 1) limiting the range of motion of the toe by taping the toe or wearing special shoes is only marginally effective 2) each time it occurs, the foot becomes more susceptible to the same injury in the future. As a result, the injury can be problematic for years following the initial occurrence.
What is a foot sprain?
A foot sprain is a stretching or tearing of the many ligaments found in the foot. Ligaments are leathery, tough cords of fibrous connective tissue that hold bones together and stabilize joints. Foot sprains are far less common than ankle sprains and lisfranc injuries.
Broken Lisfranc Fracture
What is a lisfranc injury?
The lisfranc joint is the joint at which the top of the arch of the midfoot connects to the long bones of the toes. The hardened, bony portion of the upper mid-foot where punters try to contact the ball is the lisfranc joint. Frequently, a lisfranc injury occurs as a result of someone stepping on a player’s foot hard. It can also happen when someone steps into an uneven portion of the field which causes twisting of the foot. This results in the ligaments overstretching and the joint becoming unstable. The bones can also fracture or dislocate.
Lisfranc injuries can become severely problematic, especially if the injury is both severe and untreated. Tissue damage, including damage to the nerves, muscles and vascularity of the foot can occur over time as a result of severe untreated lisfranc injuries.
What is a hip pointer?
A hip pointer is an injury to the actual bone of the hip, called the “crest” of the hip. Hip pads are designed to prevent this specific type of injury. Typically a hip pointer occurs when a helmet or facemask makes forceful contact directly on the bony portion of the hip. A hip pointer can bleed into both the abdominal and leg regions resulting in severe pain during abdominal flexion and leg movement. Standard treatment involves rest and ice. Players rarely miss significant time from a hip pointer unless an associated fracture has occurred as well.
What is a hip flexor?
A hip flexor is actually one of three muscle groups (psoas major, rectus femoris, illiacus) that help bring the knee up toward the chest, such as in a leg raise movement. This group of muscles is what gets sore after doing a hard situp workout. The phrase “hip flexor” is frequently misused to describe a strain to one of the hip flexor muscles. This is one of those “training camp” type injuries that occur most frequently when an athlete is not in ideal condition and attempts to sprint or forcefully kick or hurdle before being warmed up. Hip flexor strains also occur as a result of weakened abdominal muscles and the associated overcompensation by the hip flexors during torso stabilization.
What is a Groin Strain/Tear?
Groin strain/tear – Groin pulls occur when one or more of the six muscles on the inner thigh responsible for adduction (squeezing the knees together) get injured. Groin injuries are (From mild to severe) classified as strain/pull/tear and are given grades according to severity:
- Grade I – annoying and distracting more than debilitating, usually causes degradation of performance but can be played through (slight strain)
- Grade II – usually requires at least a week or more of rest and treatment, can easily be reinjured if player rushes back to action too fast
- Grade III – can involve tearing of groin muscle tissue which would require several weeks to several months to heal properly.
Rotator Cuff Tear
What is a rotator cuff tear?
The rotator cuff is a team of 4 muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor) that connect the humerus (biceps bone) to the shoulder joint and keep the bone stabilized within the shoulder joint. When a tear occurs, typically in the supraspinatus or infraspinatus, the shoulder joint loses its stability and strength. The injuries typically occur due to throwing motion repetition and/or other repetitive overhead movements (swimmers, volleyball players and pitchers are particularly susceptible to this injury).
Tommy John Surgery
What is Tommy John surgery?
Tommy John surgery is basically surgery to replace a ligament within the elbow, the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Overhead throwing motions rely heavily upon the flexibility and durability of the tendons around the elbow joint.
When the UCL becomes worn or actually tears, the thrower ends up with a “dead arm”. In order to fix this problem, the UCL is replaced using tendons collected from other parts of the body, typically either a forearm tendon or a tendon from the leg, specifically tendons which are non-crucial to athletic function. After a period of time involving very specific rehabilitation, the transplanted tendon “learns” how to act and behave as a ligament. Over time, the procedure has become extremely efficient and non-invasive, which leaves less scar tissue and less problems with the nerves and muscles of the surrounding era.
What is a Broken Collarbone?
A broken collarbone is simply a fracture, either compound (bone through the skin) or simple (no bone visible through the skin), of the clavicle. Pain usually goes away after a few weeks, but the area takes up to 3-4 months to heal fully. Considering how susceptible the area is to injury, players tend to rush back rather quickly from these injuries. Bones heal quickly and fully in most cases, and a clavicle injury is not an exception to this general rule.
What is a Shoulder Separation?
A Shoulder Separation occurs when the joint that connects the collarbone (Clavicle) to the shoulderblade (Scapula) is injured. Technically known as an “acromioclavicular separation”, it is known as AC separation for short and is graded from Grade I (mild) to Grade VI (most severe). Type I is the only type that doesn’t require immediate correction, either surgery or rest and players will rarely miss more than a game, if that. Type II will require a player to miss substantial (Several weeks) of time, and Type III almost always requires surgery, especially for a QB. Types IV through VI will require surgery.
What is a Shoulder Dislocation?
A Shoulder Dislocation occurs when the upper arm bone (humerus) “pops” out of the socket entirely. A player who completely dislocates his shoulder will miss playing time. Most often, however, a shoulder subluxation occurs, where the humerus isn’t completely displaced. It causes pain and tenderness in the area, but is “playable”, with a bit of pain killers and a lot of treatment. A subluxation pops back into place on its own, whereas a dislocation can require invasive techniques to replace the humerus. The problem is that a player who rushes back can exhibit weakness in that shoulder as well as a tentative attitude toward hits. Depending upon the amount of ligament damage sustained in the affected shoulder, the problem can become chronic.
What is a Labrum Tear?
The labrum is a ring of cartilage that pads the humerus in the shoulder socket (Glenoid process). Tears to this joint are somewhat common and are categorized most frequently into 1 of 2 injuries:
- SLAP Lesion/Tear – tear at the top of the labrum where the biceps tendon inserts, more common in throwers and players who involve themselves in heavy weightlifting. Coincides with biceps tendonitis and can require arthroscopic surgery and several months recovery.
- Bankhart Lesion/Tear – labrum tears usually as a result of shoulder dislocation/subluxation, specific to the glenohumeral ligament.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is, quite simply, a brain injury. When a player’s head hits the turf, another player’s knee, another player’s helmet, or any hard surface, the brain itself “bounces” around in the skull and can slam into the skull itself, causing issues with decision-making, vision, and coordination.
- Grade I – mild, players has full memory of event. Can return to action before end of game if player has no further issues
- Grade II – moderate, no loss of consciousness but difficulty remembering some portions of injury. Player may miss one week, possibly 2
- Grade III – severe, loss of conscious, cannot remember circumstances surrounding injury, may require CAT scan. Recovery time depends upon final diagnosis.
Back & Neck Injuries
What is a Pinched Nerve?
Pinched nerves typically occur when a herniated disc in the cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back – between shoulder blades), or lumbar (lower back) regions or from bone spurs in the same areas presses into a nerve. The pinched nerve results in weakness, numbness and tingling of that side of the body, especially in the arms and hands or down the leg (referred pain – pain in one area of the body arising from injury elsewhere). Usually pinched nerves can be remediated using nonsurgical means and recovery time depends entirely upon the exact cause and severity.
Back Strain/Back Spasms
What is a Back Strain/Back Spasm?
“Back spasms” is a very generic term used to describe back pain that comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be caused by a pinched nerve, a herniated disc, or muscular cramping. Recovery time depends entirely upon the exact cause and severity.
What are Discectomies?
Discectomies (replacement of the disc and/or vertebrae) maybe prescribed in severe disc ruptures and/or vertebral injuries. These typically take at least 6 months for full recovery, although treatment is usually successful.
What is Sciatica?
Pain, weakness, and tingling that radiates from the hip down through one or both legs is called sciata. It arises from pressure on the sciatic nerve, a major nerve in the lower body.
What is a Neck Stinger?
Neck Stingers are very common nerve injuries that occur due to compression or excess stretching of the tissue that surrounds the brachial plexus, the network of nerves that travel across the shoulder joint. Burning, tingling, and weakness throughout the affected side are the common symptons and players with only a stinger will be able to return within the same game. If a player is out of action for an entire game or more due to a neck stinger, be wary as the injury is probably more than what the team is letting on.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal Stenosis – This is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord and nerves. This condition is usually the result of the natural process of spinal degeneration, which occurs with aging.