Around the NFC West: Justin Smith's arm

Around the NFC West: Dec. 28, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers have not revealed enough information about Justin Smith's injured triceps for outsiders to know whether the Pro Bowl defensive lineman will return this season.

What we know: "A bone spur broke loose from Smith's triceps and remains in his left elbow," as Cam Inman put it.

Armed with this info, I reached out to ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell for thoughts on what such an injury could mean for Smith's short-term prospects.

"If the issue is really a spur they need to remove and there is not enough damage to surgically reconstruct the tendon, that is one procedure," she said. "If the damage is largely to the tendon itself and it requires a repair, that is a more substantial surgery."

Either way, the odds are against Smith returning at his usual level for the playoffs.

"I say he's not going to be full strength," Bell said. "He's most likely either serviceable or he's done for the season. They will give him a chance to find out which it is."

Defensive linemen place unnatural amounts of pressure on their triceps when pushing off against offensive linemen.

"The bottom line takeaway, to keep it simple, is that they have made a decision to wait on any procedure that might be warranted," Bell said. "It comes down to pain and functionality. If there is the presence of a spur that is in the joint, does that limit the range of motion or is it so painful to prevent him from playing? And if there is a tear, is it substantial enough to compromise his tendon?"