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NBA injuries - is it just bad luck?

Published by David on 15th November - 17:21 (CET)
We are almost one month into the new season and we have already seen some historical basketball moments but unfortunately there's already been players stacking up on the injury list. Lance Stephenson is out awaiting surgery for a groin strain, six players are out with hamstring strains and so forth.

So what is the cause of all these injuries? Are the players injury prone a la Rubio or can the 82-game season be a culprit?

Lets break down the some of the most common injuries in the league.

Ankle Sprains

This is the most common injury in the NBA and the more you jump in a pack of people, the higher the risk of twisting your ankle becomes.
The ankle has several ligaments which stabilise the ankle joint and the most common type of ankle sprain is the lateral (outer part) ankle sprain.
In most cases rehabilitation that focuses on muscle strengthening, improving range of movement and proprioception training is the cure however 30% will have a chronic instability leading to easier sprains.

Patellar tendinitis

This is the injury causing the most missed games. Patellar tendinitis is multifactorial in origin, where overload (repetive jumping/running) as well as malalignment of the patella (knee cap) are common causes.

Weakness in the the thigh and hip muscles as well as too much or too little inward movement of the foot are a couple of factors increasing the risk for this bugging injury.

Hamstring strains

The hamstring muscle is composed of three muscles involved in bending the knee as well as deceleration. This injury is especially prone to occur when the muscle is fatigued but also more susceptible with inadequate warm-up as well if the player have had a previous hamstring injury. Depending on the force it can go from a lighter strain to a complete tear of the hamstring.
According to study by rotowire, the average NBA team loses $10 million in guaranteed salary from games missed due to injuries per season. Along with affecting the rotation and team dynamic, injuries can at imes cause missed championships (Chris Webbers injury in '03 playoffs comes in mind), so the NBA owners obviously will do anything to proctect their assets.

The players receive top of the line equipment to help them shorten recovery time, for example the pneumatic recovery unit or the anti-gravity treadmill to help the players continue conditioning training while minimizing the load of running

The Mamba knows how to take care of his body

Almost one out of three majority NBA owners have made their fortune in the tech industry (Steve Ballmer, former chief executive of Microsoft as well as Mark Cuban, to name a few), which explains the advanced data acquiring systems seen in the league.

From the '12 - '13 season, all NBA arenas have military-graded cameras that follow players movement in real time. This system has been combined with wearable GPS trackers which trace players fatigue level. Players also are able to get a detailed training program based on their flaws (and general managers get a predictive injury analysis)

Technology orginally developed for missile defence

Jump to 2:11

The acquisition of big data has shown that players are 3.5 times more likely to get injured in back-to-back road games than at home. Some players are even monitored off the court, tracing sleeping pattern and physical movement.

Although the technological improvement will be a huge boost for injury prevention, this raises some ethical question on the level of surveillance of the players.

Regardless, the NBA have reduced the numbers of back-to-back games, but in my opinion, a shorter season would be the best way to reduce the most common injuries in the league although freak accidents (viewer discretion is advised) are something the league can not prevent no matter how much data is gathered.

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