NFL Injury Report: Rodger Saffold’s Neck Injury

Each week, RulingSports.com will analyze one NFL player’s injury.  Sports Medicine doctor, Dr. Mandy Huggins (Twitter:  @HugginsMD), will provide medical analysis of the injury.  Alicia Jessop will then break down some of the contract ramifications of the injury.

Dr. Mandy Huggins’ Medical Analysis

Nobody ever wants to see an injured player on the field, but neck injuries, like the one sustained by St. Louis offensive lineman Rodger Saffold yesterday, tend to be a little more scary. Saffold was awkwardly caught between two opponents during a play then seemed to crumple to the ground, where he stayed. As the medical staff came onto the field, Saffold was lying on his stomach but moving his legs. He was placed in a cervical collar, put on a spine board, and carted off the field.

When dealing with neck (or cervical spine) injuries, especially in a contact sport like football, immobilization is critical. This means keeping the neck and head as still as possible to prevent any movement. A player with a neck injury is placed in a hard cervical collar and then carefully rolled onto a spine board. If any fractures of the spine were sustained, this can cause instability in the spine. Instability can subsequently lead to damage to the spinal cord or nerve roots, hence the immobilization until further imaging and evaluation can be performed.

Fortunately for Saffold, his prognosis is good. It has been reported that he has been diagnosed with a neck sprain (meaning injury to the ligaments), and imaging tests were negative.

Alicia Jessop’s Contract Analysis

Saffold is currently in the third-year of a four-year, $6.3 million contract with the Rams.  He signed a four-year contract with the team in 2010 after being drafted by the team in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Saffold’s current injury is not his first in the NFL.  In 2011, he tore his pectoral muscle and spent time out of the Rams’ lineup recuperating from that injury.  The good news for Saffold, is that this is not the final year of his contract with the Rams.  As noted above, his prognosis is good, so he will likely be able to re-join the team within the season.  Given that his contract is up next year, it is important–yet not dire–that he has a solid season this year.  As long as he is able to perform as well as he has in his past two seasons, he should be on solid ground going into next season in terms of contract negotiations.  That being said, it is important that he takes adequate enough time to rehab this injury, so that he is completely healthy going into the 2013 NFL season, which is the last under his current contract.

There is more good news for Saffold, in that portions of his contract are guaranteed.  Reports indicate that $3.9 million of his salary is guaranteed.  NFL players can have a portion or all of their contracts guaranteed for various things, including if they sustained injuries.  Thus, even if Saffold does not play in another game this season, he is certain to earn at least part of his total four-year salary.  Furthermore, Saffold  This earned a $210,000.00 roster bonus for being on the Rams’ roster in Week 1.  His injury does not prevent him from receiving this money.  Additionally, he’ll receive $580,000.00 of his $2,320,000.00 signing bonus that is split across the four years of his contract.  Therefore, while it is important for Saffold to work to get healthy and back on the field, given that he’ll have a steady stream of income coming in, it’s more important that he takes time to fully rehab so that he has an optimal 2013 NFL season.

Mandy Huggins, MD is a sports medicine physician who practices in south Florida. She began her education with an undergraduate degree at Purdue University and subsequently received her medical degree from Indiana University. She then went on to complete a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Huggins finished her training with a primary care sports medicine fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta. She is board certified by the ABPMR and holds an added certificate of qualification (CAQ) in Sports Medicine. She blogs regularly at http://www.drmandyhuggins.com.

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