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Carson Palmer’s Achilles Heel: His Finger

USA Today- Mark J. Rebilas

Could Carson Palmer’s seemingly minor right index finger injury be a part of his streaky performance?

The Arizona Cardinals came out on top with a spectacular finish in the divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. However, the play of their quarterback was at times less than spectacular. Carson Palmer had missed a significant number of seemingly easy passes last Saturday. In fact if it weren’t for the Packers’ dropped interceptions to bail him out, Palmer could’ve almost thrown the game away. And although he, along with the rest of the Cardinals offense, did a number of good things as well, it would be unreasonable to say that fate didn’t play a big part in this win.

Lets be honest, this play can’t be attributed to much more than luck:

But could Palmer’s seemingly minor right index finger injury be a part of his streaky performance? A quarterback’s throwing motion is a very precise action that begins at his feet and ends at his fingertips. Any disruption in this chain can affect how the ball comes out. And in a league where there is such little room for error, the slightest disruption can make a profound impact.

The dislocation in Palmer’s index finger is a bigger deal than one would think. As the quarterback begins to point the ball down at the end of his throwing motion, each finger gets released from the ball and extended sequentially: pinky first, then the ring, middle and index finger. This is done simultaneously with the turning of the wrist. As more fingers are released from the ball the wrist gets further turned. The throwing motion is complete when the index finger comes off the ball and the ball is entirely released. You can see this in slow motion here:

The fixed position and lack of mobility in Palmer’s index finger may have taken away his ability to release the ball naturally and slightly altered his mechanics. Oftentimes in Saturday’s game you could see the ball being released by Palmer as his middle finger came off the ball, before his motion was complete. This premature release (even if it is only by a split second) can throw off the direction and distance of the ball completely. In addition to the effects on his accuracy, having to think about something as simple and automatic as releasing the ball with the index finger can definitely affect a quarterback mentally as well. 

Having this type of uncertainty in how the ball is going to come out cannot be good for Palmer, especially in a high pressure NFC championship game. Luck seems to be on the side of the Cardinals thus far, but their hopes to come out victorious against the Panthers tomorrow may be (as silly as it sounds) resting on the right index finger of Carson Palmer.

Edited by Jeremy Losak.

Prior to the 2015 season, what was Carson Palmer's playoff record?
Created 1/18/16
  1. 0-3
  2. 1-1
  3. 0-2
  4. 2-1

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