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Sports injuries, the players affected and how their seasons progress are always interesting to watch. Here's a short list of the latest and most newsworthy, affecting the Super Bowl and some big names in basketball and baseball.
The Ravens and Ray Lewis; the 49ers and Justin Smith
When Ray Lewis tore his triceps months ago, the injury was expected to end his career. However, despite his injured wing, Lewis has carried the Ravens to the championship game. After rehab and without surgery, he's continued to play wearing a brace. Bracing decreases stress to the torn muscle, but it also limits range of motion. Justin Smith of the San Francisco 49ers has a similar injury and brace. And like Lewis, he has continued to play at a high level. Both are expected to cause trouble for their opponent's offense at Super Bowl XLVII. (Check out 4 Reasons Why the Baltimore Ravens Will Win the Super Bowl and 4 Reasons Why the San Francisco 49ers Will Win the Super Bowl.)
The Lakers and Dwight Howard
Last year Howard averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Orlando Magic with a "bad back." (Read details on strengthening the back for rehab and for performance.) After surgery, he's been averaging only 17 points and 12 rebounds. Although his surgery may be considered successful, it takes time after any surgery to fully restore strength and mobility. Multiple reports state that Howard is around 80% recovered.
An additional challenge, especially for a center, is that Howard tore the labrum in his right shoulder. Upper-body strength is crucial to create space, block shots, and score points. Howard returned to play weeks earlier than initially anticipated. He isn't much of a free throw shooter, but this will become even more problematic with a torn labrum. Also limited will be his prowess as a shot blocker. Blocking shots requires quickly and sometimes awkwardly adjusting arm position while reaching overhead and to the side or even behind. These positions could be painful for some time. Stable shoulders are strong—not mirror strong (the muscles you can see in a mirror), but strong in areas you can't see, like the rotator cuff, rhomboids and lats. (Check out this article on shoulder stability.)
The Yankees and Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez
Mariano Rivera tore his ACL early last year and is expected to make a full recovery. ACL surgery and recovery are always challenging, but especially for a 42-year-old. However, Rivera does not have a violent delivery or throw with high velocity. What makes him successful is his precision. His return should be 100%, as the surgery went well and all reports indicate his rehab is progressing well.
Derek Jeter injured his ankle during the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. Recovery from ankle surgery is difficult, and like Rivera, one of the challenges for Jeter is his age. A shortstop needs good lateral mobility and quickness. What Jeter has lacked there he has always made up for with knowledge of his opponent and positioning. Coming off this injury, he will need all of his smarts. He'll also need good strength in his lower body, flexibility in his ankle and mobility throughout his entire lower body to be successful offensively and defensively. Reports are that Jeter is ahead of schedule and will be ready for Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox.
Like his teammates, Alex Rodriguez is aging. He is apparently suffering from a nagging hip problem, a case of femoracetabular impingement due to an associated labral tear. The tear in his hip labrum, which is structured like the shoulder. It causes pinching of the structure and pain, stiffness, and weakness. Rodriguez has undergone arthroscopic surgery for the tear and will make a full recovery. As a third baseman, he must get low to the ground to field ground balls, move laterally and rotate effectively to make throws. As a hitter, he must be able to rotate and square his hips to generate the power he lost while injured. With a good repair and focused rehab, he, like his teammates, should make a full recovery. We can watch from afar as the Yankees make another run in the American League East.