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My Leg!

You may depart this life at any moment, so regulate every thought and act accordingly. Death, life, honour, dishonour, pleasure, pain, all these things happen to good men and bad, and being things that make us neither better nor worse they are neither good nor evil.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


Analytics and injuries,

advanced stats and broken bones,

ACL tears and effective field goal percentage.

Soreness, swelling, efficiency, hoops.

– a poem by The Prophet

So here’s Derick Rose.  I think we forget how sexy his game was.  Right now Russel Westbrook is the soup de jour, but Derick Rose was equally explosive, equally vicious, and equally slammin.’

But then he tore his ACL.

Then later he tore his meniscus.

Then he did that again.

To put things in perspective, Rose had played 335 games by February 28th, 2015.  Beasley had played in 409 career games at that point.

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Injury Magnet?

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Why do things happen to people?

Because Derick Rose plays like a madman, that’s why.  If you watch him, he subjects his knees to incredible amounts of torque while executing his crazy handles.  Rose weighs 190 pounds.  If he falls from 5 feet, about 850 lb Newtons of force are absorbed by his joints.  It takes about 1400 lb Newtons to break bones.  This isn’t even taking into account lateral movement, which is even worse for your joints, particularly when coupled with downward force.

So here’s a thought: the NBA has gotten increasingly competitive over time, and the recent athletes are of such a high caliber that their bodies just can’t deal with it.  All the training and body sculpting and medical procedures designed to create the perfect basketball player also have the side effect of increased injuries.  There’s a certain logic to it: The more explosive a player is athletically, the more pressure he puts on his tendons, bones, joints, etc.

Dwight Howard, for example, is 29, but he’s post-prime when he should be hitting it in stride at this stage of his career.  Maybe his accelerated deceleration has something to do with his crazy dunks, 285 pounds of muscle, and 39.5 inch vertical leap?

Andre Miller is 38 and still an effective NBA player.  In an ESPN Article titled “The Secrets of the NBA’s Iron Man,” Athletic training specialist David Thorpe has this to say about Miller:

“A lot of guys get hurt because they’re trying to make an athletic play and they pull a muscle, they lose their balance in mid-air, or during an explosive burst of speed they get hit or fall awkwardly,” says Thorpe. “He hasn’t relied on athleticism for a long, long time. He’s beating you with craft and his mind, which is excellent.”

However, there are exceptions.  Lebron does Yoga and has avoided injuries despite racking up over 40,000 minutes in the league up to this point:

“Basketball players have been experimenting with yoga for decades. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was perhaps the first high-profile player to embrace it. In recent years, Shaquille O’Neal has used it at times to increase flexibility in his legs. Phil Jackson, who is famous for his alternative techniques, used it as a player to help with back problems and had the Bulls go through a series of yoga classes throughout the 1997-98 championship season.

The theory is that basketball players tend to be strong in certain areas, such as the legs and arms, due to the nature of the game. But all the repetitive motion can build up tension and limit flexibility in some joints and large muscles.”

– “Lebron’s Extra Edge: Cavaliers Star’s Devotion to Yoga Training Helps Keep James Healthy”

There’s no question that the increased flexibility and limberness a player can develop through yoga can extend a career dramatically: Kareem was an effective big man for a much longer period of time than the vast majority of NBA bigs.

Another Theory:

The advent of analytics, the EFF rating, the spreadsheets upon spreadsheets upon spreadsheets – These new developments are changing the way professional basketball is played.  Rather than being a 5 on 5 scrimmage where anything goes, every play is calculated and every possession is significant.

You can’t leave shooters open near the 3 point line.  3 point shooting isn’t exclusively catch-and-shoot as it was in the past.  Players, most notably Stephen Curry, have dedicated hours of practice every day to perfecting the quick release 3 off the dribble.  Trying to defend Curry is horrifying: you can do everything right, and still, this happens:

Additionally, the age of the midrange jump shooter is coming to a close.  Teams still clinging to the romantic ideal of the high volume swisher just get steam-rolled (see LA Lakers).  Players are getting to the rim, and if you snooze on defense they will either score over you or draw a foul…. or both.

Morey’s Rockets are a prime example of this dynamic shift.  James Harden drives and kicks out to a teammate for an open three, or he drives and, more often than not, gets fouled.  Meanwhile, Dwight floats around the rim, ready to slam anything that gets near him.

What I’m getting at is that players can’t even doze off for a second or two without being embarrassed.  This level of intensity makes players fatigue faster and pay less attention to avoiding injury.

This would also explain the phenomena of ‘resting,’ as made famous by Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.  Sure, Michael Jordan can play 40 minutes a game, every game, for season after season after season; but the game was different then.  Modern NBA games are much more physically and mentally taxing than they have ever been before.

What ABOUT MY leg?

It means that players need to either tone it down, which no one wants, or take full advantage of the exercises and conditioning available to them.  If Lebron wasn’t as fanatically devoted to his craft, his injury history would look much more discouraging.  Players need to take conditioning beyond the weight room if they want to prolong their career.

I sort of forgot to make this article humorous so I’ll share a joke with you:

The first time I bought a universal remote control from Target, I held it in my hand and thought to myself, “Well, this changes everything!”

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