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In 2011, I wrote a post about Washington Nationals Pitcher Stephen Strasburg. In the post I made some prediction about his health. As a result of an enormous amount of media exposure about his technique, comparisons to other phenomenal pitchers who’s careers were cut short by injury and a genuine concern for he health, the Washington Nationals opted to keep a close eye on Strasburg and monitor his pitch counts. The move was helpful to the short term health of Strasburg but only delays the inevitable.
The Nationals ended Strasburg’s season just prior to the playoffs last season amid a tremendous amount of criticism from baseball veterans, hall of famers, and tv analysts. All of these experts second guessed the decision and said the nationals had to be crazy to shut him down when he wasn’t complaining of pain or injury. Today, the move looks like a smart one as Strasburg has begun to struggle this season and complains of forearm tightness. In my 2011 article, I gave some very pointed advice to Strasburg to help him avoid the surgery. I renew that advice and hope that a some point, athletes like Strasburg, Robert Griffith III (RGIII), and even Adrian Peterson heed the warning signs of their body rather than ignoring them to prove how manly they can be. It’s time to take care of our athletes, even if the athletes don’t take care of themselves. Here are some excerpts from the article and a link to the entire 2011 article.
In 2008, I had the chance to see a young pitcher dominate on the field for San Diego State University. His velocity was tremendous and intimidating as he struck out batter after batter. I said to myself, “I wonder how many innings this guy will have in the major leagues before he is injured?” In 2010, the Washington Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg with the top pick in the professional baseball draft. Yes. Strasburg was number one on everyone’s board, except mine.
Well it didn’t last long. Strasburg had surgery after less than 10 starts in professional baseball.
In 2005, I developed a numerical scoring system to measure the efficiency of a pitcher after completing a biomechanics assessment, Biomechanics Assessment Rating™ (also known as B.A.R®). In the numerical scoring system, a pitcher with throwing mechanics similar to Stephen Strasburg would score less than 44% out of 100%. The B.A.R® compares ideal body postures, joint angles, pitch accuracy, angular velocities, and torques generated by the pitcher. In comparison, a starting pitcher like Greg Maddox would score closer to a B.A.R® of 82% rather than a B.A.R® of approximately to 43.5%, which is where we find Mr. Strasburg after my assessment of his mechanics in games over the last two weeks.
Strasburg’s biomechanical deficiencies contribute to his low score and increase his risk for repetitive throwing injuries.
Stephen’s Feet: For starters, Stephen Strasburg significantly “over-strides” during his delivery of the ball to home plate. The ideal stride length for a baseball pitcher is equal to no more and no less than 87.5% of his height. At 6 feet 4 inches tall (76 inches). This means an ideal place for Stephen’s lead foot in his throwing motion is 66.5 inches away from the position of his back foot at foot plant (the point at which his front foot lands on the ground).
To date I can see no attempts to shorten Stephen’s stride length. In fact, the more he struggles, the longer his stride seems to get as he begins to aim the ball. This causes even more stress on the arm.
Essentially, Stephen is not in control of his throwing arm or the ball. Our good friend “Mo”-mentum is in control. And Stephen’s upper arm and forearm muscles have to work 7-10 times as hard to ensure that he releases he ball at the proper point to ensure delivery of the pitch to the catcher. As he fatigues when facing each and every batter, this delivery becomes more difficult.
Simply put, Stephen didn’t fix the reason why he needed to have surgery.
So it’s pretty clear to me what lies ahead in his career. Stephen Strasburg might make it through 2-3 starts for the major league ball club, but if he continues to throw with the same mechanics, one of two things will happen, Stephen Strasburg will re-injure the same elbow, or he will shift the stress to his shoulder and rotator cuff surgery is next. He might first experience stiffness in the forearm muscles or biceps area. If he continues to pitch after feeling this often called minor “discomfort”, a major injury will occur in the elbow. Typically, the pitcher experiencing this discomfort makes a subconscious adjust to move the stress away from the area and continue pitching. This moves it to the shoulder or lower back.
So let me leave you with this as we watch Stephen closely between now and the all-star break next season. Let’s pay attention to what is said about his accuracy (command), velocity, and arm health. Other than what I have stated here as fact-based opinion, I dare not guess at what exercises Stephen should do prevent injury. Muscular strengths and weakness typically cause deficiencies we see in biomechanics. However, in Stephen’s case, the way he was taught to throw the ball is now a part of his biomechanical deficiencies. As a result, destiny may have him set for duty in the bullpen (as was the case with Joba Chamberlain-who should never have been a starter (with a biomechanical efficiency score of under 50%). If the Nationals send him to the bullpen, Strasburg will be an incredible, nearly untouchable reliever.
In closing, don’t get me wrong. The Nationals can get another 10-20 starts out of Stephen before his next surgery (unless two of the first 10 are complete games where he throws over 120 pitches and takes the typical 5 days of rest). The more balls he throws, the closer he gets to being tabbed just another pitcher who failed recover from early injuries. But let’s hope for the best! Personally, I’m a fan and want to see Stephen Strasburg dominate pitching at the major league level. But the game may have other plans for him.
So far the nationals have gotten just over 30% more games than I originally assessed, which based upon his pitch counts, would be about accurate. (Strasburg threw about 30% less pitches than the average starting pitcher since the start of his career). As a fan, I hope they get it figured out. I would hate to see Strasburg end up in the announcer’s booth way too early in his career like Brandon Webb (whose career the Diamondbacks had a chance to save or other pitchers who are out of the game). Here is the entire article. Follow on Twitter @zig_ziegler
Zig Ziegler is a Sports Kinesiologist who consults with athletes and teams on improving player’s health and preventing injuries.
Squat with Heel Push. Over-emphasized Cue from Trainers and Strength Coaches Contributes to Achilles, Knee, and Low Back Injuries
Are you an athlete looking to increase your leg strength, power and explosiveness? Are you mom or female exerciser working out in the gym and hoping to firm up your legs and improve a jiggly butt and reduce the visibility of cellulite on the back of your thighs and butt?
To keep up with the latest from Zig Ziegler, follow Zig on twitter @zig_ziegler.
If you look around the internet at various training websites including youtube videos, you will hear numerous experts explain proper squatting technique touting squat technique as the answer to your dreams. The truth about fitness is that there is only one squatting technique. The best technique for squatting is the one you were born with and used until a fitness expert tried to instruct you, you read an article in a fitness magazine, or followed the advice of a friend.
If you watch children up until the age that they begin organized training, their bodies develop at a rate in which we perceive is balance between strength and flexibility. Coordination, however, takes a while to catch up for those children of all ages who experience a growth spurt or constant changes in activity.
In fact, a developing toddler to adolescent is capable of demonstrating strength and flexibility while constantly battling coordination mainly because they have no perception of failure or understanding of instructions given to them on how to walk, run, squat, or throw. They just do it. In fact, the first signs of struggle we see from children while performing physical activities is after their first words of instructions.
Recently i began to instruct my teenage daughter on how to play a new sport. The more practice and instruction I provide, the more she struggles. The more I allow her body to do what she does naturally, the better her performance and the better the result. My goal is to provide her with the strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility to assist her body in performing the task and allow the skill to benefit from her body having the strength, coordination, and flexibility to perform the skills necessary to play the sport. With those things, I am instructing around one weakness or another.
Have you ever heard a strength coach or a fitness professional say, you’re going to struggle until you learn proper squatting technique. I’m glad no one sad that the kid in the pictures. Who knows how long it would have taken him to get up and move on to the next toy. Over the next few minutes I hope to shed a little light on a topic that has finally started to negatively impact, sports, fitness, and life.
I wanted to keep this post brief with the idea of making several points. Here’s how the body works when you perform a squat or for that matter any task on your feet:
1. The first segment of the body to store absorb, and transfer forces absorbed from the ground is the big toe on both feet while performing any activity while standing, walking, running, jumping or lunging. That force is transfer through the joint between the big toe and the foot (the interphalangeal joint). This is the first joint to store and release energy into the entire foot as it passes through the foot and ankle. As forces pass through the toe, it is the bottom of the foot (not the top) that must properly absorb the force and pass it on to the ankle.As a result of forces applied to the ground, the soft tissue of the bottom of the foot contracts and releases efficiently in order to properly move the forces out of the foot or injury may occur.
2. The next segment of the body to absorb, store, and transfer energy is the entire lower leg. The muscles which must first absorb the force as it comes out of the ankle is the gastrocnemius/soleus complex (posterior compartment of the lower leg also knows as the calves) but only after the force passes through the Achilles tendon which connects the ankle to the posterior (back) lower leg muscles.
3. The gastroc/soleus provides the necessary muscle contraction to transfer the forces properly out of the lower leg and next segment, the femur and the muscles of that segment which begins with the hamstrings and glutes. The glutes and hamstrings help to stabilize the pelvis and put it into position to complete the entire squat. The quadriceps act as a stabilizer and help to extend the knee during when elevating the body from the squat position. The quadriceps are triggered to extend the knee and are stimulated by any other anterior muscle contraction in the lower leg or foot.
In the 1960s/1970s/1980s and even the early 1990s, weightlifting was done primarily by body builders including Arnold Schwarzenegger. The legendary body builders focused on squatting through the forefoot. In the mid 1990′s some so called expert (no one will ever take credit for it now) began to instruct people to squat, lunge, leg press, etc while pushing through the heels of the feet. In fact, if you watch just about every fitness video, or so called expert in glute training, every one stresses pushing the the heels.
Here’s a test for you to run through your common sense meter. Perform a toe raise by shifting the weight towards the heels. In performing toe raise, notice the increase intensity in your quadriceps contraction and some contraction of your glutes. Shift the weight into your heels by raising your the entire front part of your foot off the ground, step, or where ever you are doing this test. In doing so you may feel a some contraction in the glutes.
However, you should notice that the more you try to squeeze your qlutes, the more you squeeze your qaudriceps (thighs) instead.
Earlier, I mentioned the role of the big toe. If the weight is in the heel, what happens to the big toe? It lifts off of the ground as the top of the foot and toes extend upwards, initiating the front side contraction of the entire leg.
Now try this test. Perform a standing calf raise (heel lift). As you lift your heel, try to contract your glutes (squeeze your butt). Were you successful? If you were, your kinetic chain and kinematic sequence are correct. Your kinetic chain and kinematic sequence are easily explained as the flow of energy and order (sequence) of muscle contraction.
What you feel here is the muscles contraction and areas of intensity you should feel when are at the top of your squat. While in performing the heel raise, you should have noticed a significant difference in muscle contraction on the calves, hamstrings, and glutes.
But is the contraction greater or less than the Toe Raise (heel press) rather than the Calf Press (heel lift).
In Biomechanics and Kinesiology, in order to push through the heels a person must first shift the weight backwards. To do so, requires a contraction of the muscles on the front of the lower leg. In EMG research testing in my lab, the entire anterior compartment of the lower leg (shin) contracts once the weight shifts behind the mid point of the foot.
The gastroc/soleus complex also contracts but only acts more as a stabilizer than a primary mover. This means the calves neither receive nor deliver any force to the middle of the foot or the big toe when pushing through the heels. In other words if the weight is in the heels and the lifter pushes through the heels, the entire front of the leg contracts to help with the squat. NOT THE BACK OF THE LEG!
As a result of the single exercise cue “Push through the heels” sports and fitness professionals have inadvertently contributed to an increase in Achilles tendon injuries, knee injuries, low back pain and injuries, tight hips, and numerous other injuries. It’s time for a change in the industry and it starts with exercise professionals. I have come to that conclusion based not on opinion but after evaluation of the Biomechanics data of over 50,000 athletes and exercisers over the past 18 years.
By the repetition and migration of injuries to different parts of the body, it’s easy to conclude that many professional athletes like Greg Oden, Tiger Woods and others were instructed to push through their heels while squatting and lunging during rehab. Because it is clearly a cue given as an industry standard, I can imagine that even Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, as he rehabs in hopes to return to play this season has been repeatedly instructed to push through his heels. Even though Adrian Peterson had an incredible 2012 NFL season, he still exhibits signs of a weakened left foot and left ankle demonstrating that he may have been pushing through his heels while training.
Here’s the problem: When you apply force back into the heels, you disable the foot and ankle’s ability to resist internal tibia (lower leg) rotation. In doing so, the athlete’s body is inadvertently ENABLING that same rotation that the foot could be preventing. It is that rotation that cause stress in the Achilles tendon and may cause medial and even lateral knee pain. In addition, the same rotation is what contributes to patella femoral syndrome and can lead to patella tendon ruptures. In previous chapter, I discussed Greg Oden’s injuries and what could have been done to prevent all of his injuries from 2008 to present. It is this simple cue that may have contributed to his repeated injuries. I am able to conclude this because of the presence of rotational stability issues in while he performed running and squatting Biomechanics tests. Brandon Roy, currently signed to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves also exhibited signs of rotational instability. And in numerous exercise videos on the internet Roy can be seen showing those same signs of knee rotational instability due to weight in his heels in various youtube videos. Later in this book, I will share research data from over 1,000 individuals performing squats and other exercisers in evidence of my findings.
Personally, I used to recommend pushing through the heels, as well. In fact, in my early days in the industryI used it as a common exercise cue believing what at the time made sense. However, looking back, my reason for suggesting it didn’t make “common” sense and as I began to apply more of the principles of Kinesiology, I knew I needed to change many of my exercise cues which came from the still evolving fitness industry. From 1997 on, I advocated mid-foot striking while on long distance runs and mid to forefoot pressing while performing strength training and conditioning. I switched to this cue as a way to allow the body to develop and utilize the foot as it was intended: a shock absorber. In order for the foot to assist in absorbing shock with high, low, or no impact activity, the forces start at the segment nears the end (distal) part of the foot, not in the heel.
As a former hurdler, I NEVER ran on my heels. However distance runners (more in the US than other countries) were instructed to run with a heel strike. Here’s a common sense question, if pushing through your heels help increase glute muscle contraction, wouldn’t distance runners have large glutes and strong hamstrings? In addition, would sprinters (who incidentally run on the balls of their feet) have small glutes and stronger quads when compared hamstrings? Instead, its just the opposite. Distance runners have large quads and non-existent glute muscle development when compared to sprinters.
The bottom line is time for a change in this simple cue. Please stop instructing clients to push through their heels unless you are trying to develop strong anterior (front side) leg muscles. Because as a cue to develop more glute strength or get rid of cellulite on the butt, it’s just not gonna happen.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: Absolute Kinetix: Fitness From the Ground Up. To be added to the list to receive a copy of the book, post a comment or reply to this article or send a tweet mentioning Absolute Kineix: Fitness From the Ground Up! @zigSports.
Zig Ziegler, The Sports Kinesiologist can be followed on Twitter @zig_ziegler and on http://www.facebook.com/iwannabeaworldclassathlete
To keep up with the latest from Zig Ziegler, follow Zig on twitter @zig_ziegler.
Brandon Roy was once regarded as one of the most prolific guards in the NBA. With excellent lateral explosiveness and sleek moves to the basket, the All-Star guard was poised to go down as one of the greatest in NBA history. Just before the start of the 2011 NBA season, Brandon Roy announced his retirement from playing professional basketball.
Unfortunately, Brandon Roy has been a victim of the system. The system is present in basketball, football, and baseball, and all sports at the professional and youth levels. The system is a part of a culture that we have seen all to often shorten or ruin the careers of some of sports greatest athletes. Many athletes go on to to achieve success in spite of this system and culture.
The system and culture I am referring to is related to the treatment and care of athletes, and most importantly in Brandon’s case, care of sports or athletic injuries. In the world of sports, injured athletes are viewed as unable to help the team and often times a distraction. Many coaches, knowingly and unknowingly, relegate the mental state of injured players to the bottom of the depth chart as well as their bodies once an athlete is injured. Some athletes are so dedicated to their return that they will push themselves hard to get back on the court or the field even when their bodies show signs that they are not ready. Brandon Roy is one of those athletes who will do whatever it takes to get back on the court.
Some successful athletes seek advice outside of their immediate medical team. After seven surgical procedures, Brandon Roy did just that and all I can say is… Good for Brandon! Public perception is that if a medical group, team of doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainer works with a professional sports team they must be the best. If a pro team trust multimillion dollar athletes with a medical expert, the average person believes that medical group must be good enough for them. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. In today’s world, some professional teams hire based on cost. Others hire or obtain a team based upon a close personal relationship. The buddy system is always at play especially in America.
In 1994, I sat in one of my graduate school classes at the University of Northern Colorado wondering what was the next step I would take towards achieving my goals. After a few weeks of contemplating my future I sat down with my grad school adviser, Dr. David Stotlar. A well respected administrator around the country in sports, Dr. Stotlar served as one of the pioneers in the emerging field of Sports Marketing. The UNC program was one of only five universities in the country at the time offering a Master’s degree in the field of Sports Marketing and Administration. I asked the following question:
What happens in the interview process for a job with a professional sports team after I complete my master’s, if I am down to one of the final two candidates for a job? There I would sit with a Master’s Degree in Sports Business, a Degree in Kinesiology, and experience as a former athlete. Candidate number two, happens to be the workout or drinking buddy of the General Manager’s son and also plays golf periodically with the decision maker. I asked, “Who would get the job?” Dr. Stotlar replied, “Well Zig, unfortunately for you, the job is likely to go to the buddy of the GM’s son. “
At that point I set out to work on relationships and building a reputation of doing quality work. My efforts lead to friendships with numerous professional athletes including Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and many others. i worked hard to open the doors to numerous opportunities in professional sports. I’ve been blessed to have been able to work with some of the greatest athletes in the world. But that alone does not make even me anymore of an expert than the recent college graduate. What makes any person better in their field and in life is their experiences and how they learn from them. Working with some of the greatest athletes in the world in multiple sports has forced me to think outside of the box and evaluate each athlete and their goals or conditions on an individual basis, regardless of whether or not they played the same sport or suffered the same injuries as others with who I had worked.
All too often that happens today, especially in professional sports. After all, just take a simple look at how often coaches are recycled from team to team. NBA coaches move from one team to another. When a head coach gets a new job, he brings in his entire staff of good friends, brothers, and associates whom they trust. A coach can bring in their entire system to their new team. Assistant coaches, strength coaches, even athletic trainers sometimes change jobs based on the buddy system Once in the system, the less effective at their jobs begin to work the system to ensure their longetivity in the event the coach who brought them in moves on. If a staff has been there for a while even through poor job performance something else is keeping them on staff. Most of the time, that something is relationships.
The bad news is for the new team is that If a coach’s entire system didn’t work in one program, its not likely to work in another The smart members of that new staff recognize the writing on the wall from the last job and start working relationships the moment they walk in the door. The culture of professional basketball is unlike any other professional sport. In football, coaches bring in experts and specialists on offense and pair them with experts on defense and other areas crucial to the entire team’s success. In basketball, an offensive guru, often gets a job and fills crucial coaching roster spots with more offensive gurus to help implement their system. Professional sports team positions are filled with coaches and administrators who were fired as a group from one place and move as a group to coach a whole new team. Coach’s mistakenly bring all the problems they had in one organization over to their new teams. Why do they do this? Loyalty, comfort, and control.
Professional sports are highly political and and a close fraternity. Once you are in, you could be in for life. Even if you are not the best in your field. Once you are out of the system you may be out temporarily or permanently depending upon your persistence and actual value to a team or player. You can be kicked out of the fraternity sometimes based on the simple fact that you challenged the system, even if you are one of the best at what you do. This is the buddy system at its finest. Unfortunately, this buddy system isn’t just happening with coaches on the bench, it happens with experts who care for the athletes.
And that is not the best way to determine the best care for multimillion dollar athletes.
It’s definitely not the best way to provide care for youth athletes. This buddy system affects youth sports too, as parents race their kids to the lines building in the offices of the team doctors for professional and collegiate sports teams in their area. Often, you hear parents boast about getting their kid in to the see the team doctor for XXXX professional or collegiate teams.
Often times, they boast right after their 14 year old has completed an unnecessary surgical procedure when all they might have needed was rest and proper body development. they won’t even know this procedure was unnecessary for years to come. This trickle down affect is causing many youth athletes to now begin to suffer repeat injuries. This system is broken and won’t be fixed until athletes take control of their own medical care.
An athlete with repeat injuries is often labeled negatively as injury prone or high risk. Once an athlete is labeled as have high risk of injury or injury prone, they can be blackballed or see their career placed in jeopardy as a result of what has nothing to do with them as a person. Injuries to a player like Brandon Roy are not treated them same. And this credit can be given solely to Brandon himself. He is given the benefit of the doubt and ample consideration because of his talent and excellent character. Brandon Roy is a great person. As a result of his character and personality, people root for him. I root for Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, and even Kobe Bryant (I’m a Bull’s fan remember) especially when it comes to their health. Every player deserve a better healthcare system. A system where they can have open access to the best health care available and believe or not, they currently do not. Some programs obviously get better care than others as they hire medical staffs that are on the cutting edge or at least open minded. Brandon Roy deserves a chance to get healthy and stay healthy.
Less than a year ago, Brandon Roy was headed for retirement and probably a career in coaching basketball. After what I am sure was careful consideration and weighing his options, Brandon took the steps he believed necessary to get back on the court. It is reported that Brandon underwent PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections similar to those reportedly undergone by Kobe Bryant, Greg Oden and others in an effort to help aid in the recovery and repair of damaged or deficient tissue.
I can imagine Brandon felt great in the days and weeks following the procedure. As a result of how good he felt and a testament to his own personal work ethic, Brandon Roy was able to return to the NBA after many had given his career up for dead. Brandon Roy proved many doubters wrong. I for one was excited about his comeback. After all, one of my earlier writings predicted that Brandon Roy could and would play again!
Unfortunately for Brandon, his road to recovery is not quite complete. I was not surprised when I awoke on November 19 to reports that Brandon Roy would undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his knee. After seven procedures on his left knee, this surgery was to Brandon’s right knee. This is concerning to me and should be to his medical team in Minnesota as Brandon has now started to experience “compensatory pain and injury to what has previously been a healthy body part. (Remember Greg Oden in 2008/2009: Oden Rupture Patella Tendon in healthy left knee as a result of compensating for multiple previous surgeries on his right knee. Oden first began to experience signs of patella tendonitis in the left knee months prior to the left knee injury. In my opinion, someone addressed the patella tendonitis as a symptom, not a compensation injury).
A compensation injury occurs when either consciously or subconsciously a person unloads a previously injured area to avoid pain, discomfort, or re-injury. Typically, an athlete who suffers an injury to the left knee shifts that stress to the other leg. (This involves repeated injuries in the case of Brandon Roy) Think about this, when an injury occurs the first response from the brain is to protect the area from further pain or injury. This can be notice by the athele who injures one leg and hops off the field or court on the other leg. The athlete is so focused on being in control of their body and showing that they aren’t helpless that they use one leg instead of two to go from point A to point B. Crowds often applaud this effort. But in reality it can be seen as a foreshadowing of things to come.
While surgery is a way doctors help repair specific damage, surgery can still be considered an intentional injury to some tissue in an effort to repair a more important injury. Immediately after surgery, an athlete is unable to utilized the newly repaired leg for some limited amount of time.
What’s next for Brandon? Well unfortunately I predict another injury to Brandon’s left knee immediately following this surgery. Brandon’s healthy right knee has now forced all the stress back to his chronically injured left knee and upon return to the court if not before, Brandon will begin to experience more pain and discomfort in his left knee. If he shifts that stress immediately back to his right knee, Brandon could suffer cartilage damage, an MCL (medial collateral ligament) tear, or an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament ) tear or Patella tendon issues on the right knee. Because of Brandon’s history I would put my money on the right knee suffering a more acute injury but he may begin to experience more pain on his left knee before he even gets a chance to get back on he court.
Compensation injuries are difficult to deal with and become chronic injuries almost instantly unless the root cause of the problem has been address. A word of advice to Brandon:
- Eliminate surgery as an option unless there is structural damage.
- Identify the root cause of your issues and stop settling for the quick fix.
- Hire someone who can pay attention to detail of how you perform each exercise during rehab and strength training.
I have no personal desire to hold Brandon’s hand through recovery from this or any surgery. But will readily offer my advice to him and his staff on what is contributing to his injuries. I require a lot from any athlete I work with emotionally and psychologically but most importantly, I require support from the people around the athlete. They are the ones who are with the athlete every day and should be able to see impending issues. Until Brandon stops experimenting with procedures, surgeries and other quick fixes, his injuries are destined to repeat themselves of migrate to other parts of his body. Brandon Roy can get back on the court and stay on the court but he has to select better people to help him achieve his goal.
If there is one thing the last year has taught me personally, it’s that your career can be affected by the people you put around you and the decisions they make. My professional and personal life was affected by the actions of others whom I brought onto my team almost five years ago. I accept that responsibility that I allowed them to turn me into a victim. But no one can be a victim forever. Brandon Roy’s life is currently being affected by people on his team who may not have intentions of harming him but they are doing just that. Brandon has become a victim allowing just about anything that might help his injury recovery to drive his thoughts and procedures. Get to the root cause of your injuries Brandon. Take control back Brandon! It’s not easy, but I did it and so can you!
Zig Ziegler is a sports kinesiologist and professional sports consultant. To keep up with the latest from Zig Ziegler, follow Zig on twitter @zig_ziegler.
What a crazy last 12 months in the NBA. Brandon Roy is coming back! When I wrote about Brandon Roy coming back from retirement in April, some readers responded in disbelief. “He’s got bone on bone,” they said. “I must have been on drugs”, one commenter said. “No credibility”, and so on. Well this is not an I told you so follow up, but more about how Greg Oden can get there too. (Blog coming soon about Brandon Roy’s chances of staying healthy: stay tuned).
After a whirlwind last 6 months or so, Greg Oden was released and gave a lengthy interview discussing his career and life with Mark Titus of Grantland. According to published reports, Greg also began a rigorous rehab and conditioning program to help get his body right. In addition, Greg also reportedly underwent a surgical procedure to help reduce pain in his knee.
The reason you’re here is to find out if and how it might be possible for Greg Oden to make a return as well. I am a fan of Greg as a person and want to see him on the court and achieve his basketball dreams.
My biggest motivation for writing about Greg Oden and other athletes issues is to bring light to the fact that proper treatment of the ‘root cause of any injury is an essential component to helping prevent athletes and anyone from suffering from an injury long term’. What traditionally has been referred to as proper treatment has had only short term benefits to the patient. Traditionally, professionals in the industry treat the symptom. If you treat the symptom (pain or injury), yes you can get back in the game quickly. But the long term affects can be devastating and cut short any athlete’s career.
Recently, someone asked what I thought would have happened had Michael Jordan been drafted in Portland instead of Sam Bowie (whose career was hampered by chronic foot injuries)? The answer is who knows and who really cares.
The bigger question is what would we be saying about Michael Jordan if he had not recovered from injuries suffered to his feet early in his career. Three games into the 1985-86 season, Jordan went down with a broken bone in his left foot and was sidelined for 64 games before returning in mid-March.
The answer is that Air Jordan might have been reduced to a fraction of what he is today. According to his teammates and those who played against him, Michael Jordan (whom I first met in 1994) worked harder than any other player in the game on and off the court. In many ways, his work ethic overshadowed any treatments or training programs prescribed for him As a result, any trainer who worked with Jordan would have become a name in the industry because he was Michael Jordan. Had that same trainer worked with Sam Bowie, we have no idea how Bowie ‘s body would have responded. It is impossible to treat the two players with similar injuries with the same treatment because their body types and injury/training histories are different.
Oh by the way, many people forget or don’t know that Sam Bowie played in the NBA until 1995, he just didn’t play the way he was expected to based upon being drafted Number 1 overall ahead of the greatest player of all time.
Now back to Greg Oden so I can tie this all together. A proven surgical procedure undergone by hardworking Kobe Bryant (who works as hard as Jordan on his fitness level) to eliminate pain only fixes part of the problem: the pain goes away. That is a good thing because the pain prevented Greg from being able to workout efficiently. Additional benefits to the procedure Greg underwent earlier this year include reduced inflammation and possibly accelerated healing in the areas of his body affected by all of his surgical procedures. Based upon the sheer number of surgeries Greg has undergone, his body has probably built up a considerable amount of scar tissue and some nerve damage may have occurred as well. The procedure could potentially help with both. This is very positive for Greg’s comeback. But it is still not enough.
I hope Greg’s rehab and training program has focused on his weaknesses. As I’ve stated previously, Greg moves inefficiently because of weaknesses in his body that have caused injuries. Here are a few areas that were weak on Greg in 2008 and as evidenced by the repeated procedures in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, possibly still affecting him today: glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, hip extensors, hip rotators (internal and external), peroneals, gastrocs, soleus, abs,anterior and posterior tibialis, and more–mostly on the right side. The left side indicated signs of significant fatigue and overuse. So Greg’s left side needed then and probably still does need a break, relaxation.
The Number One area Greg Oden needs to improve….his feet!!!
In particular, Greg needs to improve his right “foot flexion” strength. Can Greg grip things with his feet? As crazy as it may sound to the novice reader, it is a necessary part of efficient biomechanics and Kinesiology. As you’re reading this, take off your shoe and you’ll see what I mean. Place a towel flat on the floor and grip or pick it up with your foot (one foot at a time for 50 reps- hold each rep for 2 seconds). Try it and see how your foot feels. Some of you won’t make it to 25 before your foot cramps. If you’re right handed do the exercise with your right foot. Lefty’s just the opposite.
The feet are the single most neglected part of any training program. Less than one percent (1%) of all trainers or physical therapist include true foot exercises in the daily or even weekly training programs for their athletes. Now big manly types will say working out your feet is not important. Give them big strong massive biceps and they’ll take that guy. But let’s get real, we are seeing more injuries to knees, achilles, and other parts of the body related to weak feet.
We assume that because we are on our feet that they are functioning correctly, but that is not true. And no all of you you barefoot running enthusiasts, that is not enough either. Barefoot running only affects where the impact occurs not function of the feet. That’s a whole blog series I have set for October.
Here’s an indicator of whether or not you need to train your foot flexion or gripping: Do you wear flip flops? If so, you are overworking the top of your foot and ankle (dorsiflexion and toe extension). In my research for this post, I watched a youtube video promoting toe extension exercises for dancers. It is honestly the worst and most unnecessary exercise ever, unless you’ve suffered an injury that keeps you from wearing flip flops. Don’t get me wrong, some people will need it but 9 out of 10 would be negatively impacted by it.
Greg Oden and just about every other basketball player in the world needs the opposite. These athletes need to work on gripping things with their feet. Why do I say this? It’s because the shoes worn by basketball players prevents their foot and ankle from functioning properly. The solid rigid surface, the ankle taping…this prevents the ankle and foot from doing what it does naturally. So yes, Greg Oden has a weak right foot. In addition, he has a weak right lower leg complex: gastrocs/soleus.
This weak right foot contributes to his weak right lower leg, which contributes to his weaker right hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and other areas of his right leg. These weaknesses cause Greg to over use his left side which is what contributed to Greg Oden’s left patella injury in 2009. So if Greg Oden wants to come back in 2012-13, he’ll need to work hard, but he’ll also need to work on the right areas of his body. Most importantly, Greg should absolutely under no conditions perform the same number of sets and reps or stretches on his right side in comparison to his left. Greg’s injury history alone is an indicator that one side was damaged more than the other, so why do the same things on both? And yes, all of this was a part of the “controversial report” given to the Portland Trailblazers in 2008 and again in 2009 when contacted for a copy by Tom Penn. Emotionally, another major injury would probably end his career. I would hate to see this because I had a chance to have an impact on his career longevity.
I guess we can say that two chronically, injured players for one team might be playing in the NBA for other teams after being let go due to those alleged career ending injuries. And isn’t it amazing that one of them could win a championship (if he ends up in Miami and they win again). Shocking! I’m just saying… somebody other than me thinks these two guys are still worth it and can be fixed.
The bottom line is just because you read it on the internet or someone makes a statement about it does not mean that it’s true. Apparently one shoe has already dropped as Brandon Roy has signed with a new NBA team. Another shoe will drop when Greg Oden is signed before the start of the season and returns to the NBA. I’m pretty sure someone will sign Greg next season. And at worst, Greg can hang on for another 5 years or so going from team to team and make millions. I hope he works hard on the root cause of his injuries and not just the injury itself. Ask the question of your therapists, Greg. And make sure you get a real answer not just one to pacify you.
The only other question left for me to answer here is, “What’s my motivation?”
Well, it is truly to see Greg Oden and many other injured athletes back on the court or in the game. If Greg’s serious about a return, he should have a copy of his old report if he does not already have one. But also, he should get a new one. Oh and if he does call to request one, no one will never hear about it from me until long after he returned to the court. After all, you didn’t know about his previous tests as I kept that confidential not because I had to but because I wanted to keep it quiet. At anytime, I could have promoted my relationship with the Blazers or any athlete or team as many others in the field do. Having a famous clientele doesn’t make you an expert. Actually having a positive impact on them or sharing valuable information for their benefit is what makes me and others in the profession feel great about waking up every day to go to work.
Until Greg was let go, I was a background guy. That means when an athlete or team came to me, I stayed in the background. This is not about attention for me, it’s about bringing light to a dark situation. I want Greg Oden’s flame to shine. Let the candle burn Greg. Next week, I’ll detail Greg’s number 2-5 most important exercises to guarantee his long term health. Oh by the way, NBA teams, a guy with a tight back (back problems) can be fixed and is still worth a top draft pick. hint hint.
Zig Ziegler, The Sports Kinesiologist can be followed on Twitter @zigsports.