The medical question of the week surrounding the Ravens has been running back Ray Rice's strained left hip flexor.
Rice was injured Sunday during the second half of a 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns, immediately going to the ground and grabbing his hip before limping off the field.
Although he didn't practice Wednesday, Rice is no longer limping, the team didn't regard his injury as serious enough to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam and coach John Harbaugh has said Rice doesn't need to necessarily practice this week to play Sunday against the Houston Texans.
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Dr. Derek Ochiai, a board-certified hip arthroscopic surgeon and sports medicine doctor in Virginia who's not treating Rice, believes the running back should be able to get back on the field soon, perhaps even as soon as this weekend if he responds well to treatment.
"I saw the play that Ray got injured on and you can definitely see the hip flexor strain," Ochiai said. "He was trying to cut and he extended his hip when he was trying to flex it and overstrained. Uniformly, injuries like this don't require surgery. The initial diagnosis is a physical exam and pressing and moving the hip to determine how severe the injury is. An MRI is really good at assessing soft-tissue injury, but it's not necessary to diagnose a strain.
"The question comes if there are any issues around the hip or irritation or if he doesn't respond normally. If that's the case, if there are issues, then you look for the possibility of a labral tear or sports hernia. He may not be able to play this weekend because it usually takes a week or two to recover from hip flexor strains depending on the severity. If he deviates from that timeline, then you should probably get an MRI to see if there are any other existing issues with the hip."
Ochiai said Rice isn't necessarily at greater risk of aggravating the injury once he no longer has any symptoms of pain or lack of normal flexibility and motion.
"If somebody has normal strength with no limp and is running and you can believe them when they say they don't have any pain, then it would be fine to let them go back and play at that point," Ochiai said. "If you meet those criteria, your risk of re-injury is very close to before the injury. So, being cautious and taking an extra week won't make any real difference.
"Of course, that's unless he has an underlying structural issue that makes him more susceptible. The Ravens have excellent athletic trainers and sports medicine people. If he meets their criteria to return to play, he should be absolutely fine. The risk of re-injury isn't zero, but it's pretty close to his normal baseline of health."