Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Round Mounds? Not Anymore

In this age of obesity, it's comforting to know that most serious basketball players have relatively low body fat percentages. Unlike some sports (football linemen, sumo wrestling) where extra pounds help you keep your position, basketball simply requires so much running, jumping, and change of direction, that being obese is simply not acceptable.

Even those players whom we think of as fat, are only relatively so. Charles Barkley (above) is a good example:

In a Sports Illustrated article from 1984, his preseason fitness testing before his Junior year revealed his body fat percentage to be 14.5%. The average adult male ? 15-18 %

Now I'm not saying that Sir Charles didn't like to eat (see ginormous Krispy Kreme above), but his girth was always compared to his ectomorphic (look it up) basketball playing peers.

And yes, even professional basketball players can gain too much weight for their own good

(Charles to super-sized Oliver Miller - "You can't even jump high enough to touch the rim, unless they put a Big Mac on it" or Charles to Stanley Roberts: "Hey Stanley, you could be a great player if you learned just two words: I'm full.") . But players have learned the importance of keeping lean, and players who want to make an NBA-roster have learned how to keep their body fat percentage down.

Body fat % has been part of the NBA Draft Combine since 2003. Back when it first began to be measured, more than 1/3 of would-be draft picks at the combine had body fat percentages of 10% or higher, and a few players actually showed up with body fat percentages over 20% (don't think they had very long NBA careers).

These days, the body fat percentage at combine is much lower, with only 7 of the 50 players showing 10% or more (and the highest was AJ Price at 12.4%) at the 2009 event.

So here's another reason to play basketball -- participation and success often go hand in hand with healthy weights (even if you eat the ocassional donut).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More (About the) Swine Flu 4 You

In posts from this past October (and last October 2008), I reviewed some of the important steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting the flu.

Why? Because it's a Winter illness and basketball is a Winter Sport (at least here in the US).

But what about the rest of the world? What if you're one of the lucky players who plan to participate in an international tournament or travel program?

Well, according to an article that was published on Fiba.com today, new guidelines have been enacted for basketball players around the world.

As written in the article (which can be found in its entirety here),

"During a meeting of the medical leaders of the international team sport federations important questions regarding the H1/N1 pandemic (Swine Flu) at international sporting events was discussed. Experts from FIFA, IIHF, IHF, FIBA, FINA, IBAF, ICC and FIVB gathered on 1st November 2009 in Lausanne, at the headquarters of FIVB to discuss actions and precautions to be taken. As a result of the meeting and in view of close consultation with (the) WHO (World Health Organization) it was established that the following recommendations be met:

* Players diagnosed with H1N1 flu, by laboratory confirmation, should refrain from any sporting activities during a minimum of 7 days after the appearance of the first symptoms.

* Single dose vaccination against the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus is recommended, as a preventative measure, provided the players do not have existing underlying medical conditions;

*Application of strict rules of hand washing and coughing etiquette as well as avoiding contact with sick people" should be followed. "

So it's the same for ballers around the world

* Get vaccinated now to reduce your risk of getting Swine Flu

* Stay away from sick people

* Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Be a Swine

With college basketball practices underway and the NBA season starting, it seems like the H1N1 virus (the virus that causes Swine Flu) has been in the sports news as often as a box score.

The flu has hit lots of teams already, including Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans , the
Washington Huskies , and even Lebron and Company .
Face it - in the US, basketball (H.S., college, and NBA) is a Winter sport and the flu usually rears it's ugly (congested) head around this time of year.

In my opinion, every team should have a flu vaccination policy similar to the Gaucho players pictured above. While flu shots have been available for a while now, it's still not too late to talk to your local doctor about getting vaccinated against "regular" seasonal flu as well as against the H1N1 flu this year.

I wrote about the importance of Taking Your Shot this time last year, but the Swine Flu has added a few wrinkles about what to do.

For an update on recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control, click here.

And make sure you cover your mouth when you sneeze.
And wash your hands.
And wash your hands.
And wash your hands again.

Here's hoping that the only time you'll ever think about Swine on the basketball court is when you're playing P-I-G.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

99 + 7 = An Amazing Man

My congratulations and sincere wishes for a very Happy Birthday go out to one of my favorite basketball coaches of all time.

John Wooden turned 99 today.

That in itself is quite a feat, but longevity is not the only thing that sets this fine gentleman apart from the rest of us. And no, it's not his excellence as a player or success as a basketball coach that does it either.

Like my other favorite coach (Dean Smith), John Wooden garners my admiration and appreciation for the way he not only prepared his players for games during basketball season, he also prepared them for life, stressing the importance of being a good person who does good deeds.

When he graduated from grade school, his father handed him a list of 7 principles to help him on his journey through life. I've listed them here for you - take a look.

1) Be true to yourself.
2) Make each day your masterpiece.
3) Help others.
4) Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5) Make friendship a fine art.
6) Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7) Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

There's a lot you need to learn to become a good basketball player, but there's much more to learn and do to become a good person.

Thank you, Coach Wooden, for showing so many people how to be both.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

To Nfinity and Beyond?

No, I'm not talking about going to Infinity and Beyond in the Nike Buzz Lightyear shoes.

It's "Nfinity", a company that claims "We Are Women's Sports" and recently got into the women's basketball shoe market.

A while back, I received an e-mail asking if I was familiar with their new shoe and what I thought of their claim that their shoe reduces the risk of ACL injuries.

First I went to their website to learn more.
It's slick and user-friendly and touts the Nfinity basketball shoe (currently priced at $119/pair), which has BioniQ Technology designed to address "the pronounced Q angle(the angle between hip and knee, which increases the likelihood of ACL injuries)."

In a previous blog entry (What Female Basketball Players Kneed to Know), I discussed the problem of ACL injuries in female players and gave a few links to some resources to help girls try and reduce their risk. Could a shoe help as well?

I've long agreed that we need more basketball shoes that are made specifically for girls (better fit in the heel, more streamlined for the female foot) and I applaud this company's attempts to fill that need.

Yet I wonder - How much $$ are they spending on research and how much $$ are they spending on marketing? (They also have a neat commercial on you-tube, featuring Nikki Blue.) It's something you have to ask about any basketball shoe product, whether it's from Nfinity, Nike, Adidas or Reebok.

And most importantly - will it work to reduce the risk of an ACL injury?

To investigate, I asked some of my colleagues who study ACL injuries, sports biomechanics, and orthotics for sports about the Nfinity's basketball product. Some felt the BioniQ idea was just another gimmick to jack up the price of a shoe. Others felt that more research (prospective, randomized) should be done to determine its effectiveness.

The folks at Nfinity, in response to my e-mail, told me that their shoes are currently being tested at the University of Michigan. "As soon as we have conclusive results we can make them available." She also gave me links to several testimonials. While testimonials are nice, and are often used to sell products, they won't sway my vote.

To Nfinity and Beyond?
First, I'd like to hear the results of their research.
Then I'll decide if I'd go there.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Its Gotta Be the Shoes


What's the most important part of every basketball players' uniform? With all due apologies to Mars Blackmon It's Gotta Be The Shoes !

One major problem - There are so many different basketball shoes out there (aside from Carmelo Anthony's collection-above) that it can be hard to decide which one is right for you.

While I can't tell you which brand or type or size to wear, I can tell you that many different factors go into determining what's best for each individual player. Your foot size (and width), your history of ankle injuries, the arch of your foot, the $$ in your wallet, and so much more.

I can also point you towards a potential resource: The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine which, according to their website, "serves to advance the understanding, prevention and management of lower extremity sports and fitness injuries."

One of the resources they offer on their website is a listing of recommended shoes for different sports (including basketball). After examining different types of basketball shoes and grading them with a standardized assessment form , they offer their recommendations here .

Don't know how many of the good (foot) doctors actually played some ball in the shoes they evaluated, but it's a start.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Position Statement on Youth Resistance Training


In this month's issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a group of experts representing the National Strength and Conditioning Association updated the NSCA's recommendations for youth resistance training.
The group, let by Dr Avery Feigenbaum , concluded that:

"A properly designed and supervised resistance training program":

  • is relatively safe for youth.
  • can enhance the muscular strength and power of youth.
  • can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth.
  • can improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance of youth.
  • can increase a young athlete's resistance to sports-related injuries.
  • can help improve the psychosocial well-being of youth.
  • can help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence.

Safe to say that I agree with all of their conclusions, but before you run off and buy some big weights for your U12 team, I highly encourage you to read this report's recommendations about how to train, how much to train, how often to train, and how important it is to eat and sleep properly so that the body can best benefit from a graduated resistance training program.

For best results, work with a certified strength and conditioning coach who has experience in training youth and not just some trainer who makes kids puke by overdoing it on workouts designed for NBA players.