By Abby Sims
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Let’s start with Jay Cutler who, according to NFL writers, was diagnosed with a Grade II MCL sprain. Cutler sustained the injury in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay, and came under fire from many players and media types for exiting the game early in the second half.

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I know football players are tough, and Cutler, who has type I diabetes, supposedly wanted to continue to play. The reaction, possibly prompted by his poor performance in the first half, seems unjustified. How can anyone, player or otherwise, presume to know exactly what another player feels, or anticipate how the injured athlete might tolerate competition.

There are nuances to each injury, as well as to pain tolerance. There are also those who play through injury and undue pain to their own disadvantage, or even that of the team, whether short or long term. Athletes and team doctors collaborate to make choices. Yeah, the Bears lost the game, but Cutler’s ultimate choice to play it safe may have been in everyone’s best interest.

For more about MCL injuries read earlier posts on Da’Sean Butler – and on Kendrick Perkins.

Next on the list is Mark Sanchez, the NY Jets 24 year-old quarterback, who reportedly injured his throwing shoulder when he fell on it in a game against Pittsburgh on December 19th. Sanchez played out that contest, and continued to perform for the balance of the season despite a “sore shoulder”. This week’s reports and blogs present an optimistic picture, with Sanchez claiming that he feels fairly confident he will be able to avoid surgery.

Of course, he will collect a few more medical opinions before a decision is reached. If earlier articles were accurate, Sanchez suffered from a torn cartilage in his shoulder. I presume they are referring to the labrum. I haven’t examined Sanchez’ shoulder and have no specific information about the extent of the damage or whether other structures are involved. However, it would not surprise me in the least if in a few weeks we’ll read about the nature of the surgery that was just performed. Just a hunch…

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For more about the shoulder labrum take a look at an earlier blog on Eric Bedard.

The third featured player of the day is Maurkice Pouncey, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ injured center. Pouncey was assisted off the field to observe the final three quarters of the AFC Championship game from the sidelines, having just suffered a high ankle sprain.

Despite being quoted in the Post-Gazette as saying that “it was the worst pain ever”, Pouncey also reportedly stated that he’d “had this same injury before on my other ankle and I know how to attack it. I know how to approach things. I know in my heart I’m playing in that game.” The two don’t equate – worst and same… In any case, a severe sprain is tough to rebound from in a period of two weeks, even with the best of care.

A “high” ankle sprain, affects the connective tissue that attaches the two bones of the lower leg just above the foot. A “low” sprain injures the ligaments that connect the base of these bones to the foot – either on the outer (lateral) side of the ankle (the more common inversion sprain), or at the inner (medial) compartment (the less common eversion sprain).

Sprains are actually tears, be they microscopic or profound, depending on the grade of the injury. The healing that ensues is generally more protracted than that for fractures. So, will Maurkice Pouncey be competing in Dallas? I’m doubtful. And, if he is out there, how effective will he be? Maybe he should take a cue from Jay Cutler…

For more about ankle sprains read an earlier post on Kobe Bryant.

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