Recapping the NFL's Worst Injuries from Week 8

Dave Siebert, M.D.@DaveMSiebertFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2013

Recapping the NFL's Worst Injuries from Week 8

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    Similar to the past few weeks, injuries rocked the NFL once again during Week 8.

    Key players on the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and other teams went down on Sunday, and as a result, several squads will not look the same going forward into the second half of the 2013 season.

    Injuries are a part of the game, but it's often tough to watch the pain and frustration that results. Everyone certainly hopes for nothing but speedy and full recoveries.

    With that in mind, let's take a look around the league and zero in on a few of the most important injuries from Sunday's action. Be sure to look out for further reports around the media world as the week continues.

Quick Hits

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    Before getting to the worst of the worst, let's look at a few unknowns that will become clearer in the days ahead. Please note that this list is not comprehensive.

    Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick (Hamstring)

    According to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, Vick aggravated a previous hamstring injury on Sunday, writing that the quarterback felt his hamstring "pop."

    The significance of that pop remains unclear.

    Frequently, an athlete feels a pop with an injury when a muscle tendon or ligament gives way completely, but Vick stated that this one did not feel as bad as previous injuries. A Monday MRI will show more detail and allow for the formation of a prognosis.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Williams (Hamstring)

    Williams told Ira Kaufman of The Tampa Tribune that he has a torn hamstring. The injury first occurred in September.

    It's sometimes difficult to interpret the words "torn," "pulled" and "strained" in the media.

    If Williams does have a complete hamstring tear—a grade-three strain—he may need surgery. However, a partial tear could heal with rest and rehab.

    Further updates will surely follow this week.

    Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (Ankle)

    The Denver Post's Mike Klis tweeted Thomas left Sunday's matchup against the Washington Redskins early with an ankle injury.

    Presumably, the injury is a sprain, though precise details are not yet available.

    Klis mentions the tight end has a history of ankle issues. That may come into play, as repeated ankle injuries can lead to instability and the need for further intervention, up to and including surgery.

    Fortunately, nothing yet suggests Thomas will go down that route, and more information should become available soon.

    Dallas Cowboys G Brian Waters (Triceps)

    Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweeted that Waters had a triceps injury early in Sunday's game against Detroit.

    Details are scarce, but a full triceps tendon tear would likely require surgical repair and cost Waters the rest of the season.

    On the other hand, players can sometimes play through partial injuries, as the 49ers Justin Smith did last year.

Sebastian Vollmer, OT, Patriots (Leg)

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    Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer's serious leg injury overshadowed a 27-17 Patriots comeback victory over the Miami Dolphins.

    Vollmer went down in the second quarter. A GIF of the injury clearly shows Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks rolling onto the back of Vollmer's right leg (courtesy of CBS, via AOL's Sporting News).

    Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports tweeted that doctors and trainers immediately placed the lineman's leg in an inflatable cast on the field, implying an obvious concern about a fracture.

    That said, the Patriots did not release exact details as of late Sunday evening.

    Nevertheless, a broken ankle or leg will end Vollmer's season if there is any amount of bone displacement—as the replay seems to suggest.

    Displaced fractures often necessitate surgery to align and fix the fractured bones in place with metal hardware while they heal.

    Uncomplicated fractures should fully heal with surgery.

    As long as the underlying nerves, blood vessels and muscles did not sustain significant damage during the presumed break, Vollmer could very well return by the start of the 2014 season.

    Keep an eye out for official updates on the star's status.

Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions (Achilles)

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    According to Detroit Lions senior writer Tim Twentyman, wide receiver Ryan Broyles suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon against the Dallas Cowboys.

    It almost isn't fair.

    Broyles tore his ACL once in college and then again in the pros, making Sunday's injury the third time a leg injury will likely end his season.

    Most types of Achilles tendon tears usually require surgical reattachment. Typically, surgeons expose the ruptured tendon and suture the ends together with just the right amount of tension—not too loose but not too tight, either.

    Over the coming days, weeks and months, Broyles will likely undergo that surgery and begin a rehab protocol composed of progressive range-of-motion, strength and agility exercises.

    Though Achilles tendons tears can still threaten careers, with any luck, he'll return for the 2014 season.

    Given his history, one can't help but pull for him.

Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati Bengals (Concussion, Knee)

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    Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga appeared to lose consciousness after taking a nasty hit to the head against the New York Jets on Sunday.

    A GIF of the injury—courtesy of CBS, via @gifdsports—shows Maualuga go limp after taking an apparent shoulder to the head.

    According to Darryl Slater of the Star-Ledger, doctors later diagnosed a concussion. Maualuga also tweaked his knee, the details of which remain unclear.

    Loss of consciousness does not occur in the majority of concussions. However, when it does, it alone can make the diagnosis.


    The answer lies in the reticular activating system (RAS).

    Located in the brain stem, the RAS—along with other parts of the brain—maintains consciousness. It is particularly vulnerable to rotational forces. Presumably, the hit to Maualuga's head caused it to rotate sharply, transmitting the force to his brain stem and RAS. The RAS then ceased functioning for a brief moment, leading to the observable loss of consciousness.

    As with all concussions, it's difficult to predict when Maualuga will return to the field—every concussion is unique. He must pass the NFL's concussion protocol before entertaining the possibility.

    The added knee injury further clouds the situation.

Brandon Gibson, WR, Miami Dolphins (Knee)

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    Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson knew it when it happened, and one of the last sights viewers saw was the wideout slamming his helmet on the ground in frustration.

    Unfortunately, it was for good reason.

    According to's Albert Breer, Gibson received an initial diagnosis of a torn patellar tendon—the part of the knee a doctor hits with a reflex hammer. The patellar tendon connects the quadriceps muscles of the front of the thigh to the tibia, or shin bone, just below the knee, allowing for leg straightening.

    Examiners likely found that Gibson could not straighten his leg against resistance—if at all—allowing for the diagnosis.

    The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero later tweeted that Gibson was on crutches.

    Assuming further tests confirm suspicions, a patellar tendon injury will almost certainly require surgery to repair or reattach the tendon. Like Broyles, Gibson will then need multiple months of physical therapy and recovery time before playing once again.

    Hopefully, all goes well in preparation for a return in 2014.

    Dr. Dave Siebert is a resident physician at the University of Washington. Find more of his work at the Under the Knife blog.

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