Who Is To Blame for Kevin Durant’s Injury: What We Can Learn About Injuries In Youth Sports

Kevin Durant's Injury To Achilles Tendon

In the immediate aftermath of the injuries to the Golden State Warriors, the finger was being pointed.  Being pointed with blame.  Whose fault is a major injury like the Achilles tendon rupture of Kevin Durant? 

However, instead of focusing on the chatter about blame, what can young athletes, their parents and coaches take away from this?

I’d say it’s responsibility and perspective.

Blame for Kevin Durant’s Injury

Whose fault is it?  After all it must be someone’s, right?

Maybe KD himself?

Is it the Golden State Warriors staff? The team’s coaches or management?

What about the press and sports talk media, or just plain old social media?

Opinions aren’t hard to come by right now.  Sports talk shows and twitter are pointing fingers.

In the end, 99% of these guesses (and that’s all they are unless you were part of that process) are clueless. 

Velocity Knows About Injury Decisions

We are routinely part of these decisions in elite sports around the world.  We’ve seen both sides.  We’ve been part of the team or organization and on the outside as independent consultants for players.  We’ve had to give depositions on player/ management issues.  We’ve seen teams that are trying to better protect players and one’s that are just trying to win now.

Velocity’s staff has trained KD himself in the off-season.

I’ve also personally watched an international player go down with an Achilles tear in our own training facility.  Devastating when it was just 6 months before the World Cup.  The player had no history, no symptoms. 

It made no sense.

Until we learned a few weeks later that several other of the national team players also had recent tendon and ligament injuries in a few weeks span.

Turns out, the team doc used a particular anti-malaria medication for a trip to a third world country.  That medication put them at a higher risk of that type of injury.  The players weren’t informed of the risk.  That’s not cool.

Sports Injuries Are Complex

So from our elite sport perspective, here’s what you should know when it comes to answers why it happened; it’s complex.

Nobody likes to hear that.  They want black/white answers and someone to blame.  There could be someone to blame, we don’t know from the outside.  More likely, it’s a complex mix of factors.

Diagnosing and managing injuries has many factors and we are dealing with humans who don’t all go through the same process.

Most of the people we know on the staff of NBA teams are good practitioners working hard to help their athletes.

Most athletes are trying to balance their competitive drive, social pressures and the goal of preserving their financial future.

The Responsibility For Preventing Injury

Players have to make choices about whether to play or not.  Although many people would paint athletes as spoiled, undeserving millionaires playing a kids game, that is an unjust portrayal. 

A player like KD loves the game.  He’s a competitor.  He wants to be competing on the biggest stage injured or not.  He want his team to win. 

He also wants to protect his family and their future.  He wants to protect his greatest asset, his athleticism, skill and body.

Injuries are part of sports and they are a threat to any athlete pro of amateur.  For talent pros and amateurs, injuries are a threat to financial stability from pro contracts, endorsements and college scholarships.  If you get hurt, you could lose it.

It’s also a threat to lifelong health and function.  Injuries can take a lifelong toll on your physical well-being.  They can threaten your enjoyment of a sport and physical activity.

So, on every level players need to also take responsibility for themselves.

RELATED: Here’s A Proven Way To Reduce Injury Risk

Athlete’s and Self Reliance

But any athlete can be responsible.  It’s one of the great lessons sports can help teach.

Of course this is different for a highly paid pro who comes to us and spends thousands of dollars on training, rehab, recovery and more.  That’s basically a business investment.

Want to play better and recover faster, be responsible and get to sleep. 

Want to be a little bit more fit or gain more muscle, eat better.

RELATED: The Most Important Strategy So Athletes Can Recover Better

In fact, this is one of the most rewarding things we see working with young athletes.  The choices they make, on their own to be self reliant.  Young men and women being proactive in their life.

Not blaming, and not waiting.  They start eating a little better at school.  They go out for that extra run on their own.  They put down their phone and go to bed a little earlier than their peers.

The types of injuries that struck Golden State were devastating.  The fear is that the team didn’t do enough (which appears unfounded from our knowledge).  This should be a reminder or wake-up call that you need to be responsible to take care of yourself. 

Don’t count only on your team, your staff, your school, etc…  Be proactive in taking steps to reduce your risk of injury.  Be proactive if injured in managing your treatment and recovery.

KD’s Decision To Play Injured

Whether or not the risk was worth it for KD to go into that game can truly only be answered by KD.  What was the importance of competing to win versus the risk of injury to his career? 

Did pressure from the media or team mates sway his decision?

Did he just want to be the hero?  The one we idolize in sports for overcoming pain and injury.

Even the most rational person would be hard pressed to not absorb some of that pressure.

We don’t know.

Young Athletes Need Perspective On Playing Injured

However, I’d like to see this as a lesson for young athletes.  For their parents and coaches. 

We are questioning if it was a good decision for him.  He’s an adult and one who has experience.  He has advisors and got outside opinions.  He’s won before and financially sound. 

Yet, too often, young athletes feel that same pressure.  Kids, high school and college players.  They don’t have the same experience tor wisdom to draw from.  They don’t have millions in the bank already.  They haven’t reached the pinnacle of their sport.

I’ve watched as we evaluated young athletes for functional after returning from injury.  They were clearly not ready to go back. 

But they did…

Because the parent really wanted them to overcome and play. 

Because a medical professional was negligent in confirming if this player was functional, didn’t and cleared them anyway. 

Because the team, teammates or even other parents pressured them.

Some of them were all right.  Some ended up with another surgery.

So how come there is so much outcry and questioning of KD’s decision, when we see young athletes risking so much all the time?

Let’s improve the conversation about risk.  Young athletes don’t have the perspective that parents and coaches should.  All of us can improve this.

What Next For Youth Sports Injuries

The injury to Kevin Durant is horrific and has made people speculate and talk about responsibility.  Let’s use this as an opportunity to expand the conversation about responsibility and perspective in youth sports injuries. 

There are serious risks when playing hurt and trying to compete when the body isn’t ready.  Every young athlete, coach and parent have a responsibility to truly consider this as well as being proactive in lowering the risk of injury.

Youth Sports Injury Resources:

Positive Coaching Alliance

Stop Sports Injuries

HealthyChildren.org

Very Well Family

Be safe! Bulletproof Your Shoulders For Baseball

bulletproof your shoulder from injury

Its springtime and that means it’s time for Baseball and Softball. Players and coaches know that maintaining shoulder health is important for these sports, but they don’t always know what to do about it. Use these simple exercises to bulletproof your shoulders and stay in the game.

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

In this video, Coach Kenny Kallen shares two exercises that help improve posture and increase mobility in the thoracic spine and latissimus dorsi. Using these exercises in your warm-up will increase functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders. The ultimate result will be better-throwing mechanics and less pain.

Next, Coach Ken Vick explains why shoulder stability is so important for baseball players. He demonstrates the Band Y, T, and W exercises to be used in any warm-up or workout routine. Improve your baseball throwing mechanics by stabilizing your scapula and rotator cuff to control your follow-through. Improvements in this area translate into increased speed, functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders.

Sports Medicine Specialist Wes Rosner shows you how the 1/2 Turkish Get-Up can help bulletproof your shoulder.  It can strengthen and stabilize the shoulders, back, and core to help prevent injury. You want all these strong and stable when it’s game time.

RELATED: Strength Training Is Injury Prevention

4 Myths about Muscle Pliability You Need to Know

Trainer performing graston technique

The term “muscle pliability” has been in the news around the NFL quite a bit. Tom Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, claim that making muscles pliable is the best way to sustain health and performance. How true is that claim? While it’s a great descriptive term, we are going to shed some light on what it really means and how to create muscle pliability.

Defining Words

Our performance coaches, sports medicine specialists, and tissue therapists all find it to be a useful term.  Pliable expresses some of the important qualities of muscle. According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary here’s what pliable means:

Pliable

a: supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking

b: yielding readily to others

c: adjustable to varying conditions

That’s a pretty good description for many of the qualities we want in the tissue of an athlete (or any human for that matter). The problem is that it’s being mixed up with a lot of inaccurate and confusing statements.

Our Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka, says that “the word pliability, in my opinion, depicts the ideal muscle tissue quality. It is similar to suppleness, elasticity, or resilience. Unfortunately, I believe some of the explanations offered by Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have created some misunderstanding of what ‘muscle pliability’ really is.”

Let’s try and separate some of the myths from what is true.

Myth 1: Muscles that are “soft” are better than dense

That depends on what qualifies as “soft” muscle.  Tissue Specialist Cindy Vick has worked on hundreds of elite athletes, including NFL players and Olympians across many sports. “Soft isn’t a word I would use for an athlete. When I’m working on an elderly client, I often feel muscles that could be called soft; they’re not dense. That’s not what I feel when working on elite athletes. Athletes who are healthy and performing well have muscles that have density without being overly tense and move freely. The tissue is still smooth and supple.”

This muscle quality is affected by many factors, ranging from stress, competition, nutrition, training, and recovery. At Velocity, maintaining optimal tissue quality is a constant endeavor.  Proper self myo-fascial release, various stretching techniques, and manual therapy are all part of the equation.

MORE INFO: Mobility vs Flexibility: They are different and it matters for athletes

Myth 2: Dense muscles = stiff muscles = easily injured athletes

Relating these terms in this way grossly over-simplifies the reality and is in some ways completely wrong.

You have to start with the operative word: “dense.” Tanioka says, “Dense tissue can be elastic; elastic tissue is resilient to injury. What we have to look for is inelastic tissue.” Cindy Vick adds that “if you mean ‘dense’ to refer to a muscle with adhesions, or that doesn’t move evenly and smoothly, then yes, that’s a problem.”

Scientifically, stiffness refers to how much a muscle resists stretch under tension. It’s like thinking about the elastic qualities of a rubber band. The harder it is to pull, the stiffer it is. If a muscle can’t give and stretch when it needs to, that’s bad.

Imagine a rubber band that protects your joint. When a muscle exerts force against the impact of an opponent or gravity, stiffness can help resist the joint and ligaments from being overloaded and consequently injured.

“I agree with Mr. Brady’s statement about the importance of a muscle’s ability to lengthen, relax and disperse high-velocity, heavy incoming force to avoid injury.” says Tanioka. “However, I think that athletes also must be able to exert maximum power whether actively generating force or passively resisting an incoming stress, which requires the ability to shorten and be taut and firm as well as well as lengthen. The ability of tissue to be durable and contractile is just as important as to elongate and soften when it comes to performance and injury prevention.”

In the view of our experts, it’s not about dense, soft, stiff, or other qualitative words. Instead, they emphasize developing function through different types of strength qualities athletes need.   Athletes must prepare for the intense stress and strain their muscles will face in their sport.  They need to blend the right strength training with mobility and flexibility.

Myth 3: Strength training makes muscles short

“It’s an old wives’ tale that took hold when body building techniques had a big influence on strength and conditioning. A muscle can be incredibly strong without sacrificing any range of motion” according international expert and President of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick, who has worked with athletes in 10 Olympic Games and helped lead the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparation efforts for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I’ll give you two great examples: Gymnasts are, pound-for-pound, very strong and incredibly explosive, yet they are known to be some of the most flexible athletes. Olympic weightlifters are clearly some of the strongest athletes in the world and are also generally very flexible. They spend practically every day doing strength training and their muscles aren’t ‘short’.”

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than Just How Much Weight Is on The Barbell. 

In fact, proper lifting technique demands excellent flexibility and mobility. For example, poor hip flexor flexibility or limited ankle mobility results in an athlete who probably cannot reach the lowest point of a back squat. Our proven methods combine strength training with dynamic mobility, movement training, and state of the art recovery technology to help our athletes gain and maintain the flexibility and mobility required for strength training and optimal performance on the field of competition.

 

Myth 4: Plyometrics and band training are better for pliability

We hear these types of claims time and again from coaches, trainers, and others who are quoting something they’ve read without much knowledge of the actual training science. Our muscles and brain don’t care if the resistance is provided by bodyweight, bands, weights, cables, or medicine balls. They can all be effective or detrimental, depending on how they are used.

Sport science has shown that manipulating different variables influences both the physiological and neurological effects of strength training. Rate of motion, movement patterns, environment, and type of resistance all influence the results.

Truth: Muscle Pliability is a good thing

Like so many ideas, muscle pliability is very good concept. The challenge lies in discerning and then conveying what is true and what is not. An experienced therapist can, within just a few moments of touching a person, tell whether that tissue is healthy. A good coach can tell whether an athlete has flexibility or mobility problems, or both, simply by watching them move.

In either case, it takes years of experience and understanding of the human body and training science, like that which is possessed by the performance and sports medicine staff at Velocity, to correctly apply a concept like muscle pliability to an athlete’s training program.

How Velocity Helps Athletes Improve from Injury to Recovery

Sports Injury Rehab

After a sports or orthopedic injury, people set a process in motion.  The decisions throughout that process can determine whether they recover quickly. Whether they lower their risk of future re-injury.  Unfortunately, those decisions can lead to a slow recovery and condition lasting for years.  Velocity offers an approach to sports injury rehab that is not the traditional model.

The traditional therapy model might have the injured person going to 8 – 12 sessions of treatment. Then just turned loose to manage on their own.

The Traditional Model

This traditional model is often focused on treating the symptoms and reducing pain. Too often it doesn’t address the underlying causes of that problem.
 
According to Velocity Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka; “When underlying problems such as restricted mobility, muscle imbalances, poor joint stability or lack of functional strength aren’t addressed the risk of re-injury and/or chronic pain often remains.”
 
Underlying problems can lead many individuals to experience a frustrating cycle of pain and injury. This leads to re-entry into the healthcare system, more treatment, and release.  They can go through that cycle repeatedly without ever getting to the root of the problem.

Velocity’s therapy model grew from working with the world’s elite athletes and teams.  In that arena, performance is the name of the game, and results matter. 

Eliminating Pain

Instead of “chasing the pain” alone, Velocity looks at the big picture of the athlete as a whole.  They evaluate basic fundamental movements, mobility, stability and function. Doing this allows identification of an individual’s needs and to create a roadmap to recovery.

functional sports injury rehab with professional athlete
A Velocity specialists works with a professional athlete to assess a movement dysfunction.

“Whether it’s an Olympian trying to win to a medal, or a serious weekend warrior, they have common goals in therapy. They all want to eliminate pain and be able to perform at their highest level.  No one wants to be restricted from the sports and activities they love.”
 

Athlete Centered Sports Injury Rehab

From the initial assessments, Velocity creates an integrated treatment plan. It involves rehab specialists, massage therapists, trainers, nutrition coaches, and mindset coaches.
 
This means that for many people who have experienced the traditional healthcare model, this integrated approach is a refreshing experience.
 
Some of those people have experienced working with a rehab therapist, or even a massage therapist, but few have seen a coordinated effort. A sports injury rehab approach from multiple specialists. A plan with with athletic strengthening, movement training, nutrition and mindset.  This is a whole new dimension.

Manual sports injury rehab on weightlifter
Tanioka provides manual therapy to a member of the US Weightlifting team in preparation for the World Championships.

Tanioka explains this perspective, “It’s the model we strive for in our Athlete-Centered approach.  That means we focus on the individual as a whole, their goals, and what they can do, instead of what they can not do.  We want them to stay as active as possible, restoring function and getting back to full, pain free sport and activity.”

Velocity built the model based on the demands of elite sport.  Training, Recovery, and Rehabilitation are the cornerstones.  They are facilitated with Mindset and Nutrition to help athletes achieve their goals.

For elite athletes, this makes sense and they have the mindset to do everything possible to recover But weekend warriors and young athletes may not be exposed to a comprehensive support system.
 
They might not be exposed to effective solutions.  They might not have access to high level specialists.  This often ends up with them frustrated. They may find their progress stagnates through the traditional process.  Their risk of re-injury can also be higher because of this.
 
Effective sports injury rehab isn’t just a short series of visits. In the Velocity model, it’s a mindset of integrating all the elements. This helps achieve faster recovery, and sustain high performance.   “Instead of seeing therapy as something to merely eliminate symptoms, we help people to recognize what their body requires. To start building good habits to be able to take care of their needs” says Tanioka.
 
Velocity delivers solutions for athletes and active individuals. By integrating a full spectrum of disciplines, it offers a new model of rehabilitating sports and orthopedic injuries.
A person can return to full, pain-free function, and maintain that performance for a long time.

How To Protect Against ACL Injuries

slide power

Although Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are not as career ending as they used to be, they are still significant enough to greatly impact an athlete’s season and future potential. Because of this, they are obviously best avoided. Although no injury is completely unavoidable, preparation prior to competition is essential to reducing the risk. 

Two primary causes for a non-impact ACL injury: inadequate deceleration and poor muscular balance. Deceleration is the ability to slow down and control force production. This is an extremely important skill for athletes to master during training. When athletes lack the ability to decelerate efficiently, they put themselves at risk for a non-impact ACL injury during rudimentary actions like changing direction fast or landing from a jump.

The following tips are essential to include in your comprehensive preventative conditioning program:

Proper Warm-Up: A proper warm up is key for preparing the body for activity.  By warming up your muscles first, you greatly reduce your risk of injury during competition of practice.

Strength Training: Strengthening of the hamstrings, quads, core and gluteus musculature can help to maintain upper and lower leg alignment, thus reducing stress and excessive rotation at the knee.

Improve Balance: Single-leg exercises and drills can help to eliminate imbalance differences between the right and left leg.

Controlled Plyometrics: Vertical jumps and plyometric exercises should be included but must be controlled, not allowing the knees to collapse together.  This inward movement (valgus collapse) of the knees is a predictor of ACL injuries. Start by using both legs and progress to single leg lateral jumps.

Injury Prevention Screening: Screenings can be a key to possibly identifying individual needs, thus further reducing the risk of injury.  Mobility (range of motion) and/or stability (strength-related motor control) asymmetries must be addressed. The Functional Movement Screen and similar objective standardized measures can be used to assess for possible impairment of proper functional movement.

Consistency is key to reap the benefits from a comprehensive preventative conditioning program. For best results, the above listed workouts and training methods should be completed at minimum three times a week.

 

Understanding the Functional Anatomy of the Shoulder Complex and How it Relates to Your Performance

Athletes shoulder pain
The shoulder isn’t just a simple joint. In fact, the shoulder is a complex of multiple joints and muscle groups. It is incredibly mobile and allows you to generate force to throw a baseball or spike a volleyball.

To maximize your performance and reduce the risk of injury, it’s imperative that you understand how the shoulder complex functions.

The Shoulder is Designed for Motion

To better understand the function of the shoulder complex, picture a golf ball sitting on a tee. This is the glenohumeral (GH) joint’s function by design—a full range of motion through many planes but little structural stability.

The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for providing stability (keeping the golf ball on the tee) to the gleno-humeral joint.

Stabilizing the joint is easy when your arm is immobilized. However, it requires a lot more work when you’re throwing a ball or swinging a bat.

Furthermore, the mobility and stability of the shoulder joint relies on muscle function. It will be compromised if there is a weakness or imbalance in the rotator cuff muscles.

Microtrauma Can Lead to Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that pull the humeral head (ball) into the glenoid (socket) during arm movement.

When these rotator cuff muscles aren’t doing their job well, there is extra stress on the glenohumeral joint.

The repetitive microtrauma that accumulates over weeks, months and even years can lead to injury. This is common with baseball and volleyball players and even CrossFitters. The pain starts slowly and builds up over time.  

It’s not just overuse that causes microtrauma to the shoulder. A common problem is that athletes continue to perform after they are fatigued. This means they are exceeding their ability to control motion through the shoulder complex. This is why youth baseball leagues and even Major League teams use pitch counts.

Whether throwing, hitting or pressing overhead, doing so when you’ve lost the ability to control the kinetic chain can lead to injury.

RELATED:  Check out some shoulder strengthening moves in 7 TRX Strength Moves for Your Upper Body

Function is Key

Shoulder treatments will help reduce pain and swelling when dealing with an injury. Unfortunately, this is where many athletes fail at rehabilitation. They “chase the pain,” treating only the area that’s hurt. It’s a quick fix to relieve the pain, but it fails to address the source of the problem.
Instead, you’re more likely to eliminate the risk of re-injuring your shoulder if you focus on improving the function of the entire kinetic chain. This requires a greater understanding of biomechanics, physiology and motor control.
 
Yes rehab should eliminate your pain. Still, it also should focus on targeting areas of the body that you may not think directly correlate to the shoulder. That’s how you fix it over the long run.

Y Balance Test: What It Is & How to Use It

Following an injury, an athlete can experience significant changes to their motor control, which can affect their overall functional symmetry.

The Y Balance Test is one way to test an athlete’s risk of injury and functional symmetry. The test measures pre and post rehab performance, improvements resulting from an athlete performance program, dynamic balance and return to sport readiness.

Performed for both upper and lower body, the results take into consideration age, sport and gender.

When incorporated into the functional exam, the Y Balance Test has the ability to identify if an athlete is susceptible to risk.

Training smarter, which includes using the results from the Y Balance Test, can result in the reduction of re-injuries, as well as prevention of initial injuries.Click through the slideshow to watch Wes Rosner lead Angelina through the Y Balance Test. 

How to Do the Y Balance Test:

  • Start with right foot on center platform.
  • Use left foot to push reach indicator in forward direction.
  • (Note: The left foot cannot be placed on top of the reach indicator.)
  • Return left foot to center while under control, without touching down.
  • (Note: The left foot cannot touch down during the test.)

Repeat in each direction, switch feet.
Repeat with upper-body.

The Y Balance Test Addresses the Following Areas:

Upper: Medial, Infrolateral and Supralateral Reach
Lower: Anterior, Posteriormedial and Posteriorlateral Reach[/fusion_text]

Coach’s Guide to Ankle Mobility

 

Ankle mobility has been the topic of wide discussion lately, and it’s no wonder why. Ankle injuries are one of the most common in training and sport.   Understanding a proper approach to gaining adequate ankle mobility can get lost in the complexity of training the inverters, everters, dorsiflexors, plantarflexors and other stabilizers that control the ankle.

In addition, the system of intrinsic muscles that make up the arches of the foot also play a role in ankle mobility. Furthermore, this does not take into account the relationships of stability and mobility that occur at the knee, hip, and lower back. With so much to consider where do you start in identifying and training an athlete with potential ankle mobility limitations.

As a coach, you want to make sure your workout and coaching program are not limited. This means you have to address any dysfunction that could relate to managing a current injury, readiness of returning to sport and reducing the possibility of re-injury or for an athlete who has never been injured.

  • It is important for athletes to train together however, knowing each athlete has different patterns and compensations for achieving movement is paramount.

    They should be grouped prior to sport specific training to address the corrective needs necessary for regaining optimal, functional ankle movement.

  • Being a hinge joint, the ankle is designed to move.

    For this reason, correcting and maintaining any asymmetries to an athlete’s ankle is of great importance. Proper movement should occur at the ankle and hip, which are designed for mobility, while the foot, knee and low back are designed to provide stability. An athlete has greater potential to improve within his sport if the efficiency of mobility and stability are taking place in the correct joints of the body. Utilizing the Functional Movement Screen for identification of ankle mobility restrictions or other asymmetries and dysfunction is essential for developing and correcting improper movement patterns.

  • Asymmetries are part of some sports.  Baseball, for example, demands differences between the right and left shoulder and track, so the athlete is constantly favoring one side. Those asymmetries are expected, however shoulder should be pain free and within an acceptable range of motion. These asymmetries should not affect the mechanics of the rest of the body’s fundamental movement patterns. These considerations must be taken into account when hitting the weight room or performing skill based movement drills.
  • Soft tissue release through foam rolling and mysofascial ball, as well as half kneeling correctives can all improve ankle range of motion.

    The biggest benefits come from addressing asymmetrical or dysfunctional areas of the body. This allows the ankle to move as it should, instead of as a stabilizer, which if compensating can limit ankle mobility.

Come get a Functional Movement Screen and proper corrective exercise program to get you back on the right path with the elite coaches at Velocity Sports Performance.