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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton continues to deal with two offseason and preseason medical issues—first, surgery for a lingering ankle injury and later a broken rib—leaving fantasy drafters and owners with a few unanswered questions.

Will he start the season? Will he play at a lower level due to the injuries? What about the rest of the year?

Two health concerns surfacing before the regular season even starts certainly does not represent an ideal scenario. However, as of now, neither merits benching the quarterback for a backup during the first week of fantasy football action—though owners are also not entirely out of the woods.

Let's take a closer look.


Problem No. 1: The Ankle

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The fact that the NFL remains an inherently violent league comes as a surprise to no one, but the recent apparent spike in neck and cervical spine injuries is hard to ignore.

Peyton Manning's recent battle with cervical spine issues remains the most prominent case of a serious neck problem in a big-name NFL athlete—as well as one of the most impressive injury comebacks in recent memory—but several other cases continued to dot the football landscape throughout the following months and years, including:

With the above list of neck injuries continuing to lengthen, several questions come to mind: Are they increasing in frequency? Why are some career-ending, while others aren't? Are they all the same?

As might be expected, the answers to these questions aren't exactly simple, and the spinal surgery field is incredibly specialized and complex—far beyond the scope of this article.

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"Shut him down!"

With each pitch that Masahiro Tanaka throws, the cries from fans echo fainter. When it would have been simpler to let their ace wait and watch as Derek Jeter's last season faded away rather than burned out, the New York Yankees didn't go the easy way. They went the smart way.

Instead of shutting him down, the Yankees sent Tanaka all the way across the country to have his elbow examined. It was a bit of a fluke that Dr. Chris Ahmad, the Yankees team physician and one of the top doctors in baseball, was at a convention of orthopedists. Tanaka was not only checked by his own doctor, but by a few more of the best in the business. 

All agreed that the small tear, said to be around a 10 percent tear, did not need surgery. The standard is that a 25 to 33 percent tear is in a grey area, but anything above that normally will need a reconstruction (Tommy John surgery). With the small tear, the consensus was that Tanaka had a good chance of rehabbing through the injury and pitching again in 2014. 

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On Saturday night, a nightmarish scene unfolded for St. Louis Rams fans when quarterback Sam Bradford went to the turf with an apparent knee injury, one that eventually received the dreaded torn ACL diagnosis. The tear represents his second such injury—to the same knee, no less—in under 12 months.

Nevertheless, optimism reigned supreme during the initial hours following the injury. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, initial tests "did not show damage" to his ACL:

Throughout the morning and early afternoon on Sunday, however, that optimism began to slowly erode away. First came a second report from Schefter stating Bradford's ACL remained a concern:

Not long after, the bad news officially hit—this time, from Schefter's colleague Chris Mortensen:

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The injury bug bit the Arizona Cardinals on Monday when defensive end Darnell Dockett went down during practice with a torn ACL. According to NFL.com's Mike Coppinger, Dockett left the practice field on a cart due to the injury and will undergo surgery at some point in the future.

Coppinger adds that NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Dockett did not tear his MCL. MCL injuries frequently come along with ACL tears, and the lack of an MCL tear may allow the lineman to go under the knife sooner.

Shortly after the injury occurred, ESPN's Adam Schefter pointed out that Dockett has missed only two NFL games in the past 10 seasons. Such an incredible statistic unfortunately proves that even the most durable players in the NFL can fall victim to an ACL injury. Frequently, all it takes is a perfect storm of awkward positioning, a planted foot and a sudden shift in momentum.

To analyze what possibly happened in Dockett's case—a clear video of the injury is not available—let's crack open the anatomy textbooks and take a closer look.

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After battling a left patellar tendon injury last year, Atlanta Falcons left tackle Sam Baker suffered a right-side tear on Saturday during a preseason game against the Houston Texans. According to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal—citing a report by his colleague Ian Rapoport—the lineman will miss the 2014 season as a consequence of the injury.

Rosenthal adds that Baker appeared "emotional as he was helped up to his feet," and the entire NFL community certainly sends him its best wishes.

Later, ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed that the injury constituted a tendon rupture. A rupture makes effective walking—not to mention playing in the NFL—next to impossible, and surgery will likely follow.

In fact, due to the underlying anatomy, that surgery will probably come fairly soon.

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According to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will have hip surgery on Friday, ending his 2014 season. He will come up short on plate appearances and will not be eligible to win the batting title, handing the lead over to teammate Justin Morneau.

With outfielder Carlos Gonzalez also likely to be shut down due to injury, per Saunders, the question shifts to the future for Tulowitzki and the Rockies. 

Tulowitzki is expected to have a procedure done to fix the torn labrum in his left hip. This labrum is similar to the one in the shoulder that is often a problem for pitchers. The shoulder (or glenoid) labrum and the hip (or ace tabular) labrum are both thin discs of cartilage that function to cushion and stabilize the ball-and-socket joint. 

When the ball (head of the femur, in Tulowitzki's case) grinds or even impacts the socket, the labrum can get caught in between, damaging the cartilaginous structure. Until recently, this was impossible to diagnose. It usually presented as groin pain and was treated as a strain. Given Tulowitzki's previous problems with sports hernia, he may have had two problems presenting the same way.

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There are a lot of debates in baseball. It's what drives the sport, I think. It's the same for injuries. How much comes down to luck and how much is preventable? How much is workload and how much is genetics? With injuries to major stars like Justin Verlander, Manny Machado and Andrew McCutchen, injuries are once again deciding pennant races and creating new debates.

The downside here is a lack of data that allows anyone to create a debate. Just as any upside brings cries of "he must be on steroids," it seems that any downside brings the cries of "he must be hurt." Without being able to know what the athletic trainers and doctors are seeing (or without me calling my sources!) observers are left guessing, often wrongly.

The easy solution would be for teams to give more information. There's no advantage in holding it. Helping fans understand what's going on behind the scenes would make them feel more included. People read this column for the kinds of things that the team should be telling them. It's a huge opportunity for a team confident enough to be open.

Until then, we'll have plenty to talk about here, so let's look around the league... 

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According to Cincinnati Bengals writer Geoff Hobson, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will start the season without one of his prime targets, wide receiver Marvin Jones, who is recovering from a foot injury. Jones suffered a broken fifth metatarsal over the weekend, an injury that necessitated surgery.

On Tuesday, ESPN's Adam Schefter added the Bengals are hoping Jones will return on Oct. 5 following a bye week, or about eight weeks after the injury occurred.

Fifth metatarsal fractures are not uncommon in football, and an eight-week recovery time is definitely reasonable. The surgical fixation of the fracture will help ensure such a time frame, as fifth metatarsal fractures often do not heal well on their own. Even with surgery, however, nothing is a guarantee.

As is often the case with injuries, it all comes down to blood flow.

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The injury bug bit the New York Jets secondary over the weekend when cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle went down with ankle and knee injuries, respectively.

According to Jets editor-in-chief Randy Lange, McDougle suffered a torn ACL. Unfortunately, the prognosis for such an injury is harsh but simple: It will presumably end his 2014 season before it begins.

Milliner's outlook, on the other hand, is less clear.

New York Daily NewsManish Mehta noted Sunday that the Jets diagnosed the cornerback with a high ankle sprain and expect him to miss a "few weeks."