The first official Packers injury report came out today. It’s time to attempt to decipher the nebulous McCarthyisms. Some make sense, that is when he is actually connecting the injury to the body part. BJ Raji and his sprained ankle need very little explanation. Then there are the more nebulous things such as Brian Bulaga spraining his kneecap last year. And as I pointed out in a previous post , that is nigh on impossible to do. And then there is the equally absurd such as his recent statement that Tom Crabtree’s shoulder should be ready to suit up soon . That’s fine, but what about the rest of Crab? I mean, seriously, a shoulder–maybe attached to an even more helpful arm–flopping around in an 83 jersey by itself would be a little weird.

Then there are even the more mysterious McCarthyisms… he has a knee. That’s good to know, Mike. Because wouldn’t, well, running be hard if one did not have knee? Perhaps if the players were all rubbery like Stretch Armstrong , a knee wouldn’t be needed. But since none of the 53 players on the active roster are made of latex and filled with a gelled corn syrup (uh, yuck?), such silly diagnoses are a bit like a cryptic Oreo: a crunchy yet unsatisfying outside filled with an I’m Not Telling You Diddly lard-filled center.

To make matters worse, there are some actual sports diagnoses that sound like they are straight out of Mike’s Guide to Silly Medical Jargon . On the surface, they have funny names like Turf Toe or Hip Pointer. They sound like trivial, as though the player is a giant weenie nursing a hangnail. This isn’t something unique to sports medicine. After all Cuban Itch sounds like a little social disease with a Latin beat when in actuality it is a mild form of small pox. Yeah, not exactly a pretend reason to call in sick. So in my lame attempt to come up with something to write about since the Cowboys/Giants game sounds about as interesting as shoving toothpicks under my fingernails to help you through the quagmire of Weird Football Injuries, let’s delve into some of them.

Turf Toe

What it sounds like: Honestly, when I was in high school I thought this had something to do with a toenail such as a pus-filled ingrown (that’s paronychia, if you’re curious) or a nasty fungus problem. After all, fungus grows on turf, doesn’t it? It sounded like a ridiculous excuse to sit out of practice. I mean, how lame is to sit out for weeks on end because of a little toe problem? It’s not like James Starks blew out his knee or anything.

What it really is: Once upon a time, Kelly took an anatomy class and realized that the big toe is kind of a big deal. Turf toe is just as much of a foot problem as it is a toe problem. It turns out that whole toe bone is connected to the foot bone joint is pretty important when it comes to pushing off the foot either to run or jump. If that joint is injured, speed and power is lost. Just like the knee has ligaments that hold the bones of the knee joint together, there are ligaments holding this very important foot joint together. In mild cases, the ligaments are stretched and sprained. But just like the ACL can tear in a knee, these ligaments can as well. As you can imagine, the more severe of the sprain or tear, the longer the rehab and down time.

This type of injury typically occurs when player’s toe stays flat on the ground while falling or being tackled forward. The toe is hyperextended backwards beyond the normal limit and the ligaments are injured. It happens more commonly on the less forgiving artificial surfaces, thus the moniker.

Neck Stinger

What it sounds like: Were there bees somehow involved?

What it really is: It’s a neck injury also called a burner involving the nerves that come out of the neck (AKA the brachial plexus)and wire the arm. It’s usually a stretch type of injury when the shoulder goes one way and the neck is stretched in the other direction.  It doesn’t take that much of a stretch of the imagination to realize this can happen when tackling with your shoulder. And just to make it more confusing, it can also happen when the nerves are compressed. Picture the other side of the neck and the head compressing down on that same web of nerves on the other side.

Why does it burn or sting? Ever have an arm or leg fall asleep and you get that tingly pins and needles sensation? Same concept: the nerves have been affected. And just like you try to shake out the tinglies, athletes are frequently seen doing the same thing on sideline. Pain is usually immediate and shoots down the arm. They may also experience weakness in that arm on the side of the stinger injury.

A true stinger resolves with rest (ie, don’t irritate that already irritated nerve group.) But because of the high impact nature of football, it’s probably a good idea to make sure there isn’t another type of injury such as a disc compressing a nerve (See Peyton Manning) that is a whole different mechanism of injury.

Hip Pointer

What it sounds like: A hunting dog with a PBR and an ironic mustache.

What it really is: It’s a contusion–fancy word for bruise–to the crest of the hip (where you rest your hands on your hips) or the greater trochanter at the top of the thigh bone. It’s caused by a direct blow to the hip. That bruising can involve the overlying core muscles as well as the hip abductors (the muscles that pull the legs away from the midline of the body) that each attach to the pelvis. With a direct blow, some of that muscle can also separate from the hip bone and pull off a bit of bone and cause a chip/avulsion fracture. Needless to say, it creates a purple mass of pain that hurts like a mother. Trivial use of the core can set off muscle spasm and significant discomfort. Even sneezing can be a challenge. And if that is painful, can you imagine a full-pad practice?

Again, rest is the mainstay of therapy while waiting for the bruised tissue to heal. Sure, there are hip pads that football players wear to soften the blow, but being pile driven into the ground is going to still hurt regardless of the amount of padding.

Needless to say, serious injuries are often hide behind silly names.

Legal disclosures…

I don’t play a doctor on TV. Any information provided in this article should not be construed as medical advice and, in no way, is a substitute for an evaluation by your own physician.

The opinions of this article are mine and only mine and not that of my unnamed employer.

Caveat Emptor.

These are not the droids you are looking for.


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