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Two young, star athletes with two controversial, injury-related situations.

Two organizations in two sports with vastly different cultures.

Two decisions.

How appropriate that the most divided city in the country fields two professional sports teams that faced incredibly polarizing decisions affecting their franchise players this season.

By now, everyone knows the stories and has the benefit of hindsight.

The Washington Nationals erred on the side of caution with pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, opting to end his first full season after ligament-replacement surgery prematurely as a precaution against another injury.

The Nats were lost their first playoff series despite having the best record in the major leagues, but at least stand to have a rested and healthy ace when pitchers and catchers report to spring training next month.

The Washington Redskins went for it with transcendent quarterback Robert Griffin III, putting him back in the starting lineup two weeks after he sprained a knee ligament, and continuing to play him in a playoff game long after he aggravated the injured knee.

The 'Skins lost the game and their prized QB. He had ACL and LCL surgery this week, he almost certainly won't be ready when training camp opens next summer, his status for next season is up in the air and the long-term prognosis includes the possibility that he'll never be the player he was in 2012.

It has all provided plenty of good water-cooler debate and talk-radio fodder, even if one situation was far from a referendum on the other.

Just because Griffin got hurt doesn't mean sitting Strasburg was the right move. Just because Strasburg will be throwing 100 mph next April when Griffin will still be limping doesn't mean playing RG3 was the wrong move.

These decisions were based as much on the prevailing mentality of their respective sports as on medical science.

Playing scared, the Nats were probably overly cautious with a player in whom they have so much invested, both monetarily and psychically.

There's no hard evidence that shelving Strasburg midseason to rest up for a playoff run, or simply allowing him to throw another 50 innings or so, would've been catastrophic to his career. There's theory. There's speculation. There have been some comparable situations. But there are no sure things where injuries are concerned.

And there are no guarantees of championships. The Nationals' future seems limitless, but this might've been the best shot they'll have at a World Series title for years if not decades.

Ask the Chicago Cubs. Phenoms come - Kerry Wood, Mark Prior - and phenoms go, but World Series droughts can last forever. Or at least for a century. And counting.

But seemingly even more important than winning in the major leagues these days is the quest to keep young hurlers healthy. Pitch counts. Five- and six-man rotations. Innings limits. None of it seems to be working, but it's where baseball is and the Nats not only weren't going to go against the trend, they were going to expand on it.

Things are different in the NFL, where only recently have concussed players been forced to miss a few snaps.

Players are expected to play hurt. Remember a few years ago when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler limped off the field during a playoff game and was summarily ripped by fans, media and even fellow players? (Even though, as it turned out, he had a serious injury.)

While not at full strength after being hurt Dec. 9, Griffin did help the Redskins finish off an improbable seven-game winning streak to end the regular season and sew up a postseason berth. That was huge. The Redskins aren't anywhere near Cubs territory, but they do know a little something about droughts.

Since winning three Super Bowl titles in less than 10 years, the past two decades have yielded little in the way of playoff success. So the RG3-fueled playoff run was impossible to resist - even for the Redskins, although it can be argued their top priority should've been keeping their franchise player healthy.

Ironically, their best hope for continuing this year's playoff run was to remove Griffin as soon as he got hurt again against the Seahawks. But he said he wanted to keep playing. His coach listened, and Griffin was left in to have his ligaments shredded.

Of course, Strasburg wanted to keep pitching, too. But the Nats' braintrust didn't listen, sticking to the conservative plan they put in place at the beginning of the season.

He'll likely be their Opening Day starter. And Griffin may not be in uniform when the Redskins open.

Then again, Strasburg could get hurt during spring training and Griffin could be next year's Adrian Peterson.

Two young, star athletes with two controversial, injury-related situations.

Two organizations in two sports with vastly different cultures.

Two decisions.

And too early to assess the long-term ramifications of either.

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