, The 49ers, Chargers and Cowboys were among teams with key stars battling injuries to watch, Dr. Matt Provencher writes.,

National Football League

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By Dr. Matt ProvencherFOX Sports Injury & Performance Analyst

Heading into Week 3 of the NFL season, we’re monitoring some key injuries across the league.

We are here to cover team and player health, provide injury analysis and give the fans the hard data behind those injuries. Remember, in the NFL, health matters!

Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen so far.

Trey Lance, QB, 49ers

Lance sustained a significant ankle injury this past weekend. As originally suspected, he suffered a fracture dislocation to his right ankle during a designed QB run when he was tackled by Seattle’s Cody Barton and Bryan Mone. He was taken off the field on a cart, with his right leg in an air splint.

Lance underwent a successful surgery Monday to repair the fracture and ligament damage, and with Jimmy Garoppolo behind center now, Lance will likely miss the rest of the 2022-2023 season. If the healing occurs as it should, he should be able to return next season with little or no decline in his performance when he makes it back to the field. Meanwhile, he will focus on his rehabilitation and recovery.

Analysis of Trey Lance’s injury

Dr. Matt Provencher gives his prognosis on Trey Lance’s ankle injury: “He’ll likely need plates and screws to stabilize the ankle joint.”

Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers

Herbert took a hard hit during Thursday night’s loss to Kansas City that briefly knocked him out of the game. He returned to lead a late-game touchdown drive but was in obvious pain. This was very evident on a third-down play in which Herbert elected to throw the ball out of bounds instead of running for a first down and risking taking a hit.

It was later confirmed by CT scan that he did have a costal cartilage rib injury (called the costochondral joint). The team has listed him as day-to-day as they watch how he moves and feels with the pain of the injury. Rib cartilage injuries can be very painful, especially during breathing as well as making twisting motions.

The good news is that this is a better diagnosis than rib fractures, which would require more care to avoid additional injuries to the ribs and internal organs. With a rib cartilage injury, this is not a big concern but can take some time to heal. 

We will have to watch Herbert’s progression this week to see how he trends towards game time. If he does play, he will have to play with pain, and at best we will most likely see a decrease in his performance of around 10-18% for the first three games back.

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos

While attempting to make a catch on a second-and-9, Jeudy was landed on by Houston Texans corner Steven Nelson. Originally reported by the team as a shoulder injury, it was later changed to a rib injury. 

The good news for Jeudy is that he is listed as day-to-day and his X-rays were negative. By our video analysis, there is a possibility that he actually had an injury to his Sternoclavicular joint, which is the point where the clavicle and sternum come together. 

I do not think we will see him back this week, as the team will want to make sure he has the proper time to recover and that the injury doesn’t get any worse by returning too early. That said, there is a possibility of padding injured areas to get players back on the field sooner, but with the entire season left to play, the Broncos’ medical staff will most likely play it safe with one of their star receivers.

James Conner, RB, Cardinals

Conner left Sunday’s game early due to a left ankle injury. The running back got tangled up on a play in which QB Kyler Murray tried to throw him the ball. Conner did not return to the field, but he did stay on the sideline with his pads on for the remainder of the game. 

The team has said that Conner’s injury is not serious, and he is expected to make a full recovery. He will most likely be able to play this week. Conner might be listed as questionable, and we will have to see how practice trends this week. But as of now, there is nothing to suggest that they can’t tape him up and get him on the field. 

This will primarily be a pain-tolerance type of situation. However, we do know that at his position, on top of the force he has to produce running through tackles and taking hits, he also will have to pivot and change direction a lot during games. This could be affected by not having an ankle at 100%. Expect his snap percentage to be down about 10-15%, especially if his practice report trends down this week. If he can get in some full practices, then I wouldn’t expect too much of a decrease in game-time performance. 

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Browns

Clowney rolled his ankle while trying to chase down Joe Flacco during a loss to the Jets on Sunday and had to leave the game. On film, he had a textbook lateral ankle sprain. The team said that he will also be out for Thursday’s game against the Steelers

Data shows that ankle sprains usually result in 1-2 games missed and 2-3 games on the injury report. With Clowney taking this short week off, I would expect him to return by Week 4, assuming he doesn’t have any significant soft tissue or severe ligamentous injuries. 

The team may decide to keep him on a snap count if he is still feeling sore or symptomatic when he returns. The medical staff will have to work hard this week to reduce swelling and inflammation so that next week he can work on strengthening around the ankle joint for stability. 

Dalton Schultz, TE, Cowboys

Schultz has a PCL “issue” confirmed by MRI. The team said that he hopefully will not miss significant time. What this most likely means is that Schultz has suffered an attenuation or sprain of the PCL, meaning that it is stretched and not doing its full job of stabilizing his right knee. This also puts his knee at risk for additional injury if it isn’t treated correctly. 

This is usually a 2-3-week injury that will require Schultz to strengthen the musculature around his knee to give him the stability there that he is currently lacking. He may also wear a brace to assist with this.

The Cowboys are hopeful that he will be able to return earlier than initially thought when the injury occurred, but this does put him at a higher risk for re-injury, as well as symptoms that could intermittently keep him out and reduce his performance moving forward. 

Renowned orthopedist Dr. Matt Provencher and his company, ThePredictors.com, deliver data-driven injury insights to football fans. In this first-of-a-kind role as Athlete Injury and Performance Analyst for FOX Sports’ digital platforms, Provencher provides important predictive player health and recovery information about post-injury performance, the impact of weather, field conditions and more.

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