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.
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.
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: