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Fantasy Football: Injuries and Expectations Part 1

Fantasy Football Injuries and Expectations

FOXBOROUGH, MA – AUGUST 16: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) during a joint practice between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers on August 16, 2022, at the Patriots Practice Facility at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

As a Fantasy Football manager, there are a few words that you never want to hear about your team. “Injury” might just be the top word on that list. As much as we hate to admit it, fantasy football injuries are a big part of the season, and player expectations become a mystery. Knowing how to navigate those injuries and what to expect from your players can be a BIG advantage throughout the year. Here’s where I can help. This article outlines some of the most common injuries in the NFL and what you can expect if one of your players suffers them.

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Fantasy Football: Injuries and Expectations Part 1

ACL Tear

What is it?

Complete tear of a ligament in the front part of your knee

Function

The primary stabilizer of the knee; prevents excessive anterior movement of the tibia (lower leg bone)

Mechanism of Injury

Player decelerating and making a cut

Landing from a jump

The knee hyperextending

Recovery Timeline

The average return to play time according to research: 11.6 months

Normal Recovery Range: 10-12 months

The recovery timeline becomes longer with additional damage to the knee from the injury; the ACL is commonly injured with the LCL and medial meniscus

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Change of direction ability; lateral movements and burst typically takes the longest to come back

The psychological aspect of trusting the knee again

Normal movement and mechanics may not come back for a full 2 years

Re-Injury likelihood

High

High reinjury rates to the same leg and opposite leg due to muscle imbalance and altered kinematics

Most risk in the first two years following injury

Level of Concern

HIGH

Mourn the loss, and move on. Their season is over and next year will likely be negatively affected as well

Extra Nuggets

QBs are typically able to bounce back the next year the best as they rely less on their mobility and cutting ability

RBs and WRs have the most difficult time getting back to their pre-injury performance levels, with most performing worse than their career averages year 1 after injury

More experienced and established athletes are more likely to return to play at the pre-injury levels

ACL tears can lead to long-term knee damage and degeneration

Expectations after an ACL injury in the Fantasy Football community are always closer to an Adrian Peterson type bounce-back year… but unfortunately, Peterson is a unicorn in this case


Lisfranc Injury

What is it? 

Damage to the bones in the midfoot or ligaments that support the midfoot

Function

The midfoot serves to absorb shock from ground impact and to stabilize the foot on uneven surfaces

Mechanism of Injury

The foot being twisted while plantar flexed (pointed towards the ground)

The foot being forcefully rotated outwards (external rotation)

Recovery Timeline

The average return to play time according to research: 11.1 months

Normal Recovery Range: 10-12 months

The recovery timeline is dependent on the severity of the injury and how many bones/ligaments were involved

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Cutting and change of direction ability

Maintaining balance in the field of play

Re-Injury likelihood

Moderate

Most likely for re-injury in year 1 of playing after injury

Level of Concern

High

Their season is likely over, stash on the IR until next year

Extra Nuggets

Research shows a decline in performance in year 1 post-injury

Offensive players typically have a greater decline in performance than defensive players


Hamstring Strain

What is it? 

Damage (tear) to the muscle in the back of the upper leg

Function

A BIG role in generating leg power = speed

A BIG role in controlling the ability to slow down = cutting, route running

Mechanism of Injury

Sprinting typically with a long stride

Slow extreme stretching

Overstretching the muscle

Recovery Timeline

Grade 1: 2-3 weeks. Minor Damage

Grade 2: 3-6 weeks. Moderate Damage

Grade 3: 9-12 weeks. Full tear

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Jumping ability

Acceleration and sprinting

Re-Injury likelihood

HIGH

Biggest risk factor = previous hamstring injury; 2-6x more likely to re-injure compared to people with no hamstring injury history

33% of hamstring injuries reoccur in the 1st year of returning to play

The first two weeks back are the most AT RISK period

Level of Concern

HIGH

Found to be one of the most burdensome injuries in the NFL, with almost 75% of injuries resulting in missed game time 

Many times these injuries start out as “a small thing” and they go on to de-rail a player’s season

The expectation for this Fantasy Football injury = FRUSTRATION


Groin Strain

What is it? 

Damage to muscles of the inner thigh

A groin strain/injury is really an umbrella term; could involve abdominal, hip muscles, or both

Function

Inner hip muscles: Allow for the player to change direction quickly

Abdominal muscles: Allow for bending and twisting of the player’s torso

Mechanism of Injury

Muscle is too weak or too tight

The Muscle is overstretched with cutting or pivoting (see below)

A Muscle is overused when tired or not strong enough

Recovery Timeline

Grade 1 (mild damage): 2-3 weeks

Grade 2 (moderate damage): 6-8 weeks

Surgery can be required which moves rehab closer to the 8+ week mark

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Cutting Ability

Route Running

Catch Radius

Re-Injury likelihood

Moderate

This injury can often be nagging and affect a player throughout the season

The player may feel ready to return to play but if they change directions too fast in a game and that muscle can be injured again if not healed properly

Level of Concern

Moderate

You need to monitor this situation closely; a setback can occur quickly and turn a minor injury into a major problem for your Fantasy Football team


AC Sprain

What is it? 

Damage to the AC joint, which connects your shoulder to your collarbone

Function

Allows for full movement of the arms and shoulders, especially overhead

Mechanism of Injury

Falling on an outstretched hand

Diving for a catch and landing on the shoulder

Recovery Timeline

Grade 1 (minor injury): 1-2 weeks

Grade 2 (more severe injury): 4-6 weeks

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Throwing Ability

Catch Radius

Re-Injury likelihood

Low

Can be further injured if a player returns to play too soon and falls or dives on that shoulder

Level of Concern

Mild

This is a painful injury but in most cases, players typically play through pain with help from a pre-game injection

You can allow yourself to have some of the highest expectations for a Fantasy Football player dealing with this injury


Low (Lateral) Ankle Sprain

What is it?

Damage to the lateral ankle ligaments, due to the foot rolling inwards

Function

Lateral ankle ligaments resist excessive foot movement inwards

Mechanism of Injury

The foot getting stuck in an inwards position and a player’s own weight rolling over it

Typically happens when trying to make a cut but can occur from stepping on another player’s foot

Recovery Timeline

Grade 1 (mild injury): 1-3 weeks

Grade 2 (moderate injury): 3-6 weeks

In severe cases, the force causing the injury can be so significant it causes the ankle bones the ligament is attached to to break

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Balance Ability

Cutting Ability

Re-Injury likelihood

Low

Can be a chronic issue for some players that is combated by bracing

The first few weeks after injury the reinjury risk is minor

Level of Concern

Mild

Low ankle sprains are much more common than a high ankle sprain


High ankle sprain

What is it? 

Damage to ligaments (syndesmosis) connecting the lower leg bones above the ankle

Function

Shock absorption of force when running and jumping

Plays role in stabilizing the lower leg during running and jumping

Mechanism of Injury

Direct blow to outer leg with the foot planted

Sudden twisting motion w/ running/jumping (below)

Recovery Timeline

Grade 1 (mild damage) sprain: 4-6 weeks

Grade 2 (moderate damage) sprain: 8-12 weeks

The average return to play amongst NFL players is ~11 weeks

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Route Running

Run After Catch

Jumpball Ability

Re-Injury likelihood

Mild once healed; around 10% chance

Setbacks during rehab are possible if progressed too quickly

Level of Concern

High

High ankle sprains are less common than low ankle sprains because they require a lot more force to happen

More force = more damage caused, leading to a longer recovery time needed

Extra Nuggets

If enough force is generated during the injury, the inner (medial) ligaments and bone of the ankle are commonly injured

An ankle fracture or ligament tear compounded with a high ankle sprain is worst case scenario and likely the end of that player’s season


MCL Sprain

What is it? 

Damage to a ligament located on the inner (medial) knee

Function

Major role in lateral (side to side) stability

Mechanism of Injury

The player is hit on the outside of the knee (see video)

A quick change of direction causes stress to the inner knee

Recovery Timeline

Grade 1 strain: 1-2 weeks. Minor Damage

Grade 2 strain (moderate damage): 2-4 weeks. Moderate Damage

Grade 3 strain: 4-8 weeks. Severe Damage

Aspect of Game Most Affected

Route Running

Run After Catch

Re-Injury likelihood

Low

Level of Concern

Mild

Most commonly injured knee ligament as it is the weakest

The MCL is attached to the medial meniscus so they can be commonly injured together which leads to a more serious issue with a longer recovery time


A quick note: The NUMBER 1 risk factor for an injury is a previous injury to that area. So by default, every player who suffers an injury is now at an increased risk for re-injury. For this reason, a player’s injury history should be taken into account when drafting them. I hope you enjoyed this timeless fantasy football injuries and expectation piece and use it to Let It Ride. With many common NFL injuries still to discuss, stay tuned for Part 2 dropping soon! As always, for the most up-to-date NFL/CFB injury news and analysis, follow me on Twitter @SGPNFootballDoc!

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My goal is to break down various injuries in a simple format for your benefit. Learn something, find fantasy value, or beat the sportsbook, I’m here for it all!

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