Will Dont’a Hightower return this week?

 

Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower injured his right knee in Week 1’s game against the Cardinals. During Arizona’s second drive of the game, Hightower rushed off the right defensive edge to close in on Palmer. On film it appears that as Hightower turns the corner and reaches toward the quarterback his right foot sticks on the turf and drags awkwardly. Although it’s difficult to see, this resulted in a twisting injury to the knee and likely a knee sprain.


In the video above, Hightower is lined up on the left of the screen coming off the right defensive edge.  He initially limped off of the field and missed a few plays, but quickly returned to play the majority of remaining defensive snaps.

What is a knee “sprain?” Other than a catch-all term used by NFL teams to report knee injuries, by definition a sprain is a stretch of one of the knee ligaments (rubber band-type structures that stabilize the knee). There are four ligaments in the knee, the ACL, PCL, MCL, and LCL (which is part of a structure we now call the “posterolateral corner”).

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These ligaments stabilize the knee from forces in all four directions and prevent the knee from “buckling” or giving way. In all of the footage I saw it was very difficult to tell which of these structures Hightower injured due to camera angle and obstruction. However, it was a good sign that you could not see the knee acutely buckle, like we saw on the DeAngelo Hall injury.

Hightower was held out of practice all of week 2 and returned last week in a right knee brace. He was limited all week and did not play in last week’s game against the Texans. Knee sprains are variable in their recovery timetables, dependent on player position, severity of sprain, and ligament involved. Given that he is already back at practice, I expect the linebacker to continue to show progress.

The real question is, if he’s close to ready, is it worth having him play this weekend at home against Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills?

Follow me on Twitter @jessdeede.

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