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Monday, October 13, 2008
Romo loses grip on 32-game starts streak

Week 6 was a relatively "light" week for injuries. In fact, as I began to write this column, the biggest injuries to track coming out of Sunday's games were the ones that were present coming into them -- Matt Hasselbeck, Eddie Royal, Brian Westbrook, Reggie Brown, etc.

And then, we heard about the fate of Tony Romo.

Here's the latest coming out of Week 6:

Tony Romo
Tony Romo
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys:
ESPN's Michael Smith is reporting that Romo suffered a broken pinkie on his throwing hand and the injury is expected to keep him out for approximately a month. Before you start wondering how an injury to this tiny finger can sideline someone for so long, there are a few things to consider. First, and most obvious, a broken bone anywhere hurts -- a lot -- making that part almost useless. And the pinkie is very important when it comes to gripping a ball. As Dr. Mark Davies, assistant chief of orthopedic surgery at Kaiser Permanente San Jose, points out, "The majority of your grip strength comes from your fourth and fifth digits. You could potentially throw a football, although it might be difficult, with your index finger away from the ball. But it would be much more difficult to throw a football without the strength of your pinkie finger."

Case in point: According to coach Wade Phillips' statements in his Monday news conference, Romo suffered the injury on the first play of his final series (in overtime). Initially, Romo thought he had sprained the finger, but then, the quarterback struggled to throw the ball because he was having trouble gripping it.

Typical treatment for a broken bone in a finger, in the absence of a severe break that would require surgery -- early reports indicate Romo won't need surgery -- is splinting to keep the bone immobile and allow it to heal. One of the side consequences of immobilization, however, is stiffness of all the soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) around that bone. In some cases, after an initial period of immobilization but before the fracture is completely healed, the athlete will be allowed out of the splint for brief periods for range-of-motion exercises. The goal is to prevent the excessive stiffness that could result from splinting alone. It typically takes three to four weeks for a finger fracture to heal, and that's what the Cowboys are looking at.

Now, it does depend somewhat on where the fracture is. If it's in the very tip of the finger, the period of immobilization and all the potential associated consequences are less. If the break is closer to where the finger meets the hand, the picture becomes more complicated. The concern for a quarterback like Romo is getting adequate range of motion and strength back to be able to deliver the ball with velocity and accuracy. I'll be watching this closely the next couple of days.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts:
Fantasy owners everywhere no doubt wept silently when they saw their No. 1 back leave the field Sunday after two carries for 3 yards. Apparently, Addai suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the game. The good news is that Colts coach Tony Dungy sounded somewhat optimistic about his recovery. According to the Colts' Web site, Dungy said, "I think Joseph is going to be OK."

The news is not so good for rookie running back Mike Hart, who also left the game with an injury. Hart injured his right knee, and Dungy's postgame comments were more foreboding: "We don't know the extent of it, but right now, it doesn't look great." The absences of Addai and Hart left Dominic Rhodes as the only healthy running back for the Colts. Is he still available in your fantasy league? You might want to check.

Matt Hasselbeck
Matt Hasselbeck hurt his knee in Week 5.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks:
After Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said Friday that Hasselbeck was struggling because of his knee, it was no surprise that Hasselbeck did not suit up Sunday. And unfortunately, he's no lock to play this upcoming Sunday, either. According to the Tacoma News-Tribune, Holmgren indicated after Sunday's game that Hasselbeck's knee is not responding as expected to treatment and he is expected to undergo further testing. Hasselbeck hyperextended his knee Oct. 5 and suffered what the team called a bone bruise. Early in the week, both Holmgren and offensive coordinator Gil Haskell implied Hasselbeck would remain the Sunday starter. By Friday, however, Hasselbeck still could not move around well on his knee, and the decision was made not only to rest him, but also to have him evaluated further. It certainly does not sound as if Hasselbeck is expected to return to practice soon. Meanwhile Seneca Wallace, who has missed time with a calf strain, is making strides and should see more practice time this week.

Other noteworthy injuries:

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson sustained a helmet-to-helmet knock that left him with blurry vision, coach Rod Marinelli told Johnson says he'll be all right, but we know that after head trauma, the evaluation is on a day-to-day basis. Also being evaluated is quarterback Jon Kitna, who sat out Sunday because of his back. After an MRI and a consultation with a spine specialist, Kitna's future will be discussed Monday by the Lions' organization, Marinelli said. Kitna is no stranger to back problems and had two significant episodes in 2007. Might this be the final straw?

Running back Fred Taylor also suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him out for a portion of Sunday's game. He was able to return late in the game, which indicated the injury was not serious, but it did pave the way for Maurice Jones-Drew to increase his action. Also suffering a blow to the head this week was Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley. The Denver Post is reporting Stokley suffered a concussion. We will keep an eye on whether he is able to practice this week.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer did not see any action this week, but he is going to get a second opinion on his throwing elbow. Palmer said he will visit New York Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek for the second opinion. He also said he has been told his injury is the type baseball pitchers experience, lending support to the theory that it is his ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament that has been problematic. Early reports suggested an MRI showed there was no structural damage. Nonetheless, there clearly are concerns about the long-term health of his elbow. Do not be surprised if he ends up getting shut down from throwing for a while (which typically is the first option in baseball if the UCL is inflamed).

And finally, Dallas running back Felix Jones left Sunday's game in the second half because of a hamstring injury. In his Monday news conference, Phillips said Jones is undergoing an MRI and the team should know more about his status once the test results are in.

Be sure to check back here throughout the week as we update these and other injuries. Also, stop by the injury chat (11 a.m. ET Tuesday and Friday) to discuss the status of your injured players. Hope to see you there!