Opponent Watch: Week 9

Submitted by Heiko on November 1st, 2012 at 6:46 PM

About Last Saturday:

Funny bone 9, Serious bone 23.

Upchurch

Denard suffered an ulnar nerve compression. [UPDATE: Mgoreader drbogue suggests that it is more likely classified as a traumatic neuropraxia of the ulnar nerve, and I think that's accurate. The following explanations still apply because tomato tomato. 90% of you just tuned out anyway.]

Whence the ulnar nerve? Brace yourself for the fancy artwork below. Please direct your attention to the stringy yellow thing.

As you can see, the ulnar nerve innervates the interosseous muscles that are primarily responsible for grip. It also innervates the skin covering the pinky and half of the ring finger. When the ulnar nerve gets injured, the symptoms therefore manifest as loss of strength and coordination while gripping and a tingly burning sensation in the pinky and ring finger.

How long does such an injury typically take to heal? The internet suggests anything from "immediately" to "weeks" depending on severity, i.e. I don't really know. UPDATE: I just found a journal article that says that if there is "compression of a sufficient magnitude to sever axons," recovery will require several weeks during which even normal physical stress on the nerve should be avoided. Yikes. Let's hope it's not that.

Why is it sometimes called a funny bone injury? Usually the ulnar nerve is compressed at the elbow. It gets banged into the humerus. Now if you look closely at the humerus ...

You can see that it is indeed a funny bone.

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The Road Ahead:

Minnesota (5-3 overall, 1-3 B1G)

Last game: Purdue 28, Minnesota 44 (W)

Recap: With a perennially injured MarQueis Gray and a perennially unsuccessful Max Shortell, Minnesota broke in its freshman quarterback Philip Nelson against Wisconsin two weeks ago. It didn’t go so hot. Nelson survived the experience, however, to discover a week later that he’s actually pretty okay. Against Purdue, he completed 15/22 passes for 246 yards and 3 TDs without any interceptions.

The box score doesn’t reveal much about how the game went. Both teams moved the chains well, racking up around 20 first downs each and converting half of their third downs. Total yardage was slightly in Minnesota’s favor. Time of possession was even. You'd think this was a pretty even match.

Hold on a second, though. What’s this?

Official: Purdue to adapt the MMB version of Temptation, which will be sung in first person, as their fight song.

It was all Minnesota until the game was well out of hand.

While it appears the Gophers have somewhat of a “dynamic offense” thing going for them, caveats abound when the performance is against a Boilermaker team whose stock in nearly every facet of the game has fallen considerably since a miraculously close loss at Notre Dame and coming off a backbreaking OT loss to Ohio State. It also helps when the starting Purdue quarterback is performing so poorly he gets pulled in the third quarter for a guy who’s missing an ACL and is immediately outperformed.

That said, the Minnesota offense appears to be quite competent. RB Donnell Kirkwood returned after being limited against Wisconsin to deliver a 22-carry, 134-yard rushing performance while MarQueis Gray found himself home at wide receiver, tallying 4 catches for 53 yards. And he wasn’t even the Gophers’ best receiver on the day: A.J. Barker, the other guy, notched 5 catches for 135 yards and two scores.

Minnesota is officially one win away from becoming bowl eligible. Because they play Illinois in two weeks, they’ll probably get there … but only just. Don’t get too excited though, Gophers fans, all eight of you peeking out from your bomb shelters gopher holes. After Michigan and Illinois, Minnesota plays Nebraska and Michigan State to close out the regular season. Assuming the Wolverines offense isn’t a complete mess this weekend, it’s unlikely the Gophers will get more than one win from their remaining games. I’m of the wholly uncontroversial opinion that a 6-6 team from the B1G should not go bowling this season. Take one for the conference and spare everyone the shame of getting blown out by a MAC team.

This team is as frightening as: Turkey vultures circling a heavily wounded wolverine offense. Fear level if it lives: 3. Fear level if it dies: 7.

Michigan should worry about: The quarterback situation, obviously, which is a choice among the following: a guy who hasn’t taken many snaps at QB this week because he can’t close his right fist properly, a guy who hasn’t taken many snaps at quarterback this week because of things and stuff -- who knows -- and a guy who hadn’t taken many snaps at quarterback until this week. Good. Glad that is clear now.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Brendan Gibbons from 52 yards, which is bizarre. I imagine this is what it felt like back in the day when people started having money after the Great Depression and didn't know what to do with it.

When they play Michigan: If things go poorly, at least the game will be over by 3:30.

Next game: Battle for the Little Brown Jug

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I had to.

Northwestern (7-2 overall, 3-2 B1G)

Last game: Iowa 17, Northwestern 28 (W)

Recap: Northwestern fans will be pleased to know that there is a real and finite value for “A lead the Wildcats can protect”: 25 points. That is the magic number. If the Wildcats ever gets out to 25 points over an opponent, hoo boy. Watch out. That other team might not win.

The cause is helped greatly, of course, if the other team has a GERGling calling the offense. Iowa’s inability to score points contributed to the 28-3 score in the third quarter, but let’s not take anything away from the purple people.

After playing QB Trevor Siemian for the entirety of a disastrous game against Nebraska, Northwestern reinstated Kain Colter to the position full time against Iowa. To no one’s surprise, this was incredibly effective. While Colter completed only 6/9 passes for 80 yards for 1 TD and 1 INT, the backfield with both Colter and Venric Mark allowed the Wildcats to gain 349 yards on the ground. Both players eclipsed the 150-yard mark. This was a fairly significant accomplishment against Iowa’s defense, which has traditionally been disciplined and technically sound.

Things got dicey on defense once again late in the game, as the Hawkeyes pulled off two late highly inefficient touchdown drives that killed a lot of clock, but … yeah that should be self-explanatory. Iowa’s offense shot itself in the foot all game. They committed three delay-of game-penalties, two of which happened in hurry-up mode. Face, meet palm.

This team is as frightening as: Nebraska lite. Fear level = 5.

Michigan should worry about: Both Colter and Mark are homerun threats every time they touch the ball. Biffing assignments, particularly on the edge, will be costly.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan is highly unlikely to slip behind into a 25-point deficit.

Knock on wood.

When they play Michigan: At this point Michigan should forget about Siemian. The Colter-Mark option offense with a little bit of triple option mixed in will be what comes to Ann Arbor in two weeks. Playing manball to keep Northwestern’s offense cold and off the field will be key to keeping the scoring output low. The Wildcats’ aggressive linebackers will make life difficult for Michigan’s ground game, but eventually their secondary should prove susceptible to a couple bombs, assuming that Denard makes a full recovery.

Next game: Bye

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Iowa (4-4 overall, 2-2 B1G)

Last game: Iowa 17, Northwestern 28 (W)

Recap: With FB/RB Mark Weisman still recovering from his injury sustained against Michigan State and down two of their starting offensive linemen, Iowa still managed to produce a 100-yard rusher against Northwestern. RB Damon Bullock, much to his reluctance, was lifted from the depths of the Hawkeyes’ tailback depth chart and thrust onto the sacrificial altar of AIRBHG, where he will inevitably be struck down at AIRBHG’s leisure.

Other than that, the usual storylines apply for Iowa. Bad playcalling, an inability/refusal to throw downfield, and slow defensive players who couldn’t handle Venric Mark and Kain Colter were complicit in the insurmountable 25-point deficit. At this point I don’t know what Iowa needs to do in order to salvage their season. Yes, playing Indiana and Purdue to become bowl eligible is a start, but the problems on this team extend to such a fundamental level that I don’t even know if a win against Indiana is that likely anymore. Am I too off base when I say that a coaching change is imminent and necessary?

This team is as frightening as: Santiago from the Old Man and the Sea. You’re tired, old man. You’re tired inside. Fear level = .5x + 2, where x is the number of weeks remaining in the season.

Michigan should worry about: If AIRBHG decides to strike during the game, I’m concerned that he might miss and accidentally hit a Michigan player.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: All the turkey we’re going to eat in the following week. Mmm tryptophan.*

When they play Michigan: It will be interesting to see what gets more yards: Iowa's rush offense or Michigan's pass offense.

Next game: @ Indiana

*This is a myth.

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Rock and Roll (9-0 overall, 5-0 B1G)

Last game: vs. Zombies (W)

Recap: Because you can't kill rock and roll.

Next game: vs. Ill|1l/!lI1I1inois

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Objects in Mirror:

No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC)

Last game: No. 11 Mississippi State 7, Alabama 38 (W)

Recap: And another one gone and another one gone.

Next game: vs. No. 5 LSU

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Air Force (5-3 overall, 4-1 MWC)

Last game: Nevada 31, Air Force 48

Recap: Triple option FTW.

Next game: @ Army.

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UMass (0-8 overall, 0-4 MAC)

Last game: Massachusetts 7, Vanderbilt 49 (L)

Mike Cox: 17 carries, 56 yards

Next game: @ Northern Illinois

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No. 3 Notre Dame (8-0 overall)

Last game: Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13 (W)

Recap: Defense wins championships.

Next game: vs. Pittsburgh

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Purdue (3-5 overall, 0-4 B1G)

Last game: Purdue 28, Minnesota 44 (L)

Recap: See above.

Next game: vs. Penn State

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Illinois (2-6 overall, 0-4 B1G)

Last game: Indiana 31, Illinois 17 (L)

Recap: Garbage

Next game: @ Ohio State

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Michigan State (5-4 overall, 2-3 B1G)

Last game: Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13 OT (W)

Recap: Big Tennnnn.

Next game: vs. No. 20 Nebraska

Comments

Kilgore Trout

November 1st, 2012 at 6:56 PM ^

Obviously I don't know anything about Denard specifically, but this condition does sometimes end up in surgery to essentially relocate the path of the ulnar nerve to relieve the symptoms.  I think that's a pretty rare occurance, but it is a possibility. 

skone82

November 1st, 2012 at 10:58 PM ^

I had the exact same thing happen to me back in college (well, not exactly.... )  A friend threw a golf ball that hit me directly in the funny bone.  My entire hand felt numb for the next few days.  Every time after that when I would even slightly graze it, i would lose feeling.  It's been about 10 years now and it is still pretty sensitive, but definitely not as bad as before.  Hopefully the UM trainers can turn my 10 years into one week for Denard.  But i feel his pain... there's really nothing you can do but try avoid irritating it.  Fall to your left Denard.  To your left...

goblue12

November 1st, 2012 at 7:11 PM ^

As a current medical student and avid MGoBlog reader since 2007 (freshman year), I never imagined a day where Frank Netter would be featured in a mgoblog post... This means reading mgoblog is no longer considered procrastinating... WIN 

Purkinje

November 1st, 2012 at 7:19 PM ^

To add to this echo, oh my God. I just finished my first anatomy practical exam on Tuesday, and I was hoping to not see any more Netter illustrations for weeks. Buh.

Erik_in_Dayton

November 1st, 2012 at 7:49 PM ^

It's not clear to me how this can be a repetitive injury or, in other words, one that affects you some times and not others.  I had to have surgery to have my ulnar nerve un-pinched, so to speak, but that was because something was constricting it all the time. 

Purkinje

November 1st, 2012 at 7:55 PM ^

He probably physically damaged the nerve when he fell (with nothing still pinching it now), and it will take days (or weeks) to repair itself to the point that it can properly conduct signals again. If there was something *still* pinching it, it would either be inflammation (that would subside on its own) or something that would require surgery, like yours.

That's my half-assed first-year med student guess.

Drbogue

November 1st, 2012 at 7:51 PM ^

A compression neuropathy is typically secondary to chronic compression from tight fascial bands, not from trauma. A traumatic neuropraxia is more likely in Denards case. If the ulnar nerve spontaneously transposes over the humoral condyle then it is more at risk for traumatic injury. The treatment for this is typically an ulnar transposition procedure which can be performed in the off season. Think of this as a stretch phenomenon or banging your nerve. I'd be very surprised if this keeps him out of the Minnesota game. Nice Netters but I think your diagnosis is wrong

Joby

November 1st, 2012 at 8:15 PM ^

Wouldn't take long, promotes higher-plane understanding of mechanism (thus well within the spirit of this blog), plays to Heiko's strengths, engages us med types especially and hopefully wouldn't need to be done very often.

Cmoh

November 1st, 2012 at 8:59 PM ^

Agree that this sounds like a traumatic nerve injury, but Neuropraxias are not like hitting your funny bone. Hitting your funny bone goes away in a few seconds to minutes. Neurpraxias can last for MONTHS. In some severe cases one can't distinguish between a neuropraxic injury and complete nerve disruption. How's this for a diagnostic tree - if the function comes back in 6 months or less itt' s a neuropraxia! Otherwise it's a served nerve that will never heal. The fact that Denard may be able to feel the football would be encouraging

Drbogue

November 2nd, 2012 at 7:23 AM ^

How many severed nerves have you seen in your practice from a contusion or stretch injury? I've repaired several from lacerations, but have never seen one from a contusion. Still, if he was truly having some return of sensation by the end of the game Sat, he most likely willbe good to go this week. I just hope they pad his elbow a bit!

Maize n Blue

November 1st, 2012 at 9:00 PM ^

So tonight, after a long afternoon/evening of studying gross anatomy and the brachial plexus-- I turn to mgoblog for comfort. Yes... I thought I was having a nightmare when a page popped up that look exactly like the very PPT file I had just closed.

ChopBlock

November 1st, 2012 at 9:21 PM ^

I almost (ALMOST) want us to lose to Indiana some day just so Heiko has to come up with a picture a Hoosier to put on the picture-schedule.

That said, let's not lose to Indiana until another 100 years of Michigan football has been played.

A2Fan

November 2nd, 2012 at 3:22 AM ^

While it is rather obvious, at this point, that it may have been a compression 2 or 3 games ago this pre-existing condition gets worse with each reoccurance. I for one would not expect DR to be allowed to play again until the showdown to the south, if at all. The prospect of a severed nerve is too big a risk to throw caution to the wind.

Drbogue

November 2nd, 2012 at 7:30 AM ^

The bigger question I have is why does Minnesota have a serviceable third string quarterback and we don't have a serviceable second string quarterback?

A_Train32

November 2nd, 2012 at 8:17 AM ^

Nobody knows about the leprechaun spotting viral video? Utube "could be a leprechaun" and you will not be disappointed, and you'll get why that picture is up there for ND.... Hilarious

Spunky

November 2nd, 2012 at 9:23 AM ^

That laundry detergent is a hilarious replacement for the goat, Heiko. The diagram is also a nice touch, and interesting to a non-medical student like me. Ulnar nerve compression, traumatic neuropraxia, or whatever the problem might be, I sure hope Denard is well and doesn't miss anymore gametime.

ryholly

November 2nd, 2012 at 11:19 AM ^

Does anybody else think Denard doesn't play Saturday?  Hoke has said several times "Looking good" or "He's getting better", without saying he will play Saturday.  I would put $$ on Gardner or Bellomy trotting out there for the 1st series on Saturday.

I"ve heard similar conversation/theories from people closer to the team than myself, but definitely not "insiders" or people in the know.

Avant's Hands

November 2nd, 2012 at 1:22 PM ^

Pretty cool to see all the other med students (and former med students) on here. Thankfully, I finished the brachial plexus earlier this semester, but I was learning about knee ligaments the day before the Lattimore disaster. I am now studying the neck and hoping it will not be relevant to Michigan football in any way.