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Is The NBA Schedule To Blame For This Weekend’s Uptick In Exploding ACLs?

  • Dan Fogarty

We were worried this would happen: Knees exploding before our very eyes. Ankles and backs and ligaments breaking down as we turned the corner into May. Bodies — young bodies, some of which are very important to the NBA’s future — lying in heaps and screaming on the parquet.

This was the worst case scenario when the league unveiled its lockout-shortened schedule, playing more games in less time than maybe is healthy for its players. But is the shortened season – 66 games in four months, then by one day off before the playoffs — really to blame for the giant, hobbled frames that are starting to pile up?

The players think it is, but a doctor thinks it’s not.

First, lets look at who’s out. On TNT last night, Chris Webber noted that you could make an All-Star team from all of the notable NBA injuries. Here’s what that All-Star team would look like.

- Derrick Rose (torn left ACL on Saturday)

- Iman Shumpert (torn left ACL on Staurday)

- Dwight Howard (season-ending back surgery on April 21st)

- Al Horford (mid-season pectoral injury, will miss first round)

- Andrew Bogut (no basketball for three months after ankle surgery)

- Stephen Curry (shut down in early April because of an ankle injury)

- And, sure, why not: we’ll throw Jeremy Lin in there (knee surgery has him out, at least for the immediate future)

Rose’s injury hurt the most, both for the Bulls and the league. He’s a player whose game is based off his explosive first step, which is something you lose (and sometimes never get back) when you blow out your knee. Was the NBA’s effort to fit more games into a tighter window the cause for all of these devastating injuries, including one that could harm the league’s future?

Again, the players think so. Here’s what some of them said in the wake of the Rose and Shumpert ACL tears.

“Yeah, probably,” Chicago’s Joakim Noah said. “Probably.”
[...]
Boston center Jermaine O’Neal, whose season ended early after wrist surgery, wrote on his Twitter page that it was a “clear sign” of fatigued bodies from a condensed season, writing “2 torn acl injuries to key players!”
[...]
“This has been a compressed season, a lot more games, a lot less practice time, a lot less recovery time,” Knicks guard Baron Davis said.

Keep in mind: that’s coming from players, one of whom just watched his teammate go down, and another who was injured himself. They’re pissed, because, in their minds, the reigning MVP may never be the same for the sake of two more games per month.

Here’s what an actual surgeon had to say:

“There is no evidence that wear and tear, or that kind of issue, playing too much, really has any correlation with ACL injuries in any sport that we’ve ever studied,” Dr. David Altchek from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York said Sunday.

Altcheck also noted that a fatigued body may be less likely to blow out a knee, because it lacks the explosiveness necessary to tear ligaments. In fact, non-contact ACL tears — the type that Rose suffered — happen most to the “strongest and healthiest” athletes. Meaning: the schedule wasn’t to blame. But Derrick Rose’s speed might have been.

Exploding your knee is perhaps the most unfair, non-life-threatening injury on the planet. It sometimes occurs because of obvious force (a football player being hit in the side of the knee) and sometimes because of something freakish (a basketball player planting). Either way, the end result is devastating, and leaves you wanting to come up with a reason for something that occurred without reason.

[NBA schedule probably not to blame for Rose injury] AP, image via @cjzero.

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