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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Basketball Medicine (Ball)

Beth Biscoff

One of the reasons I write this blog is to support the idea that there should be a specialty devoted to the science and practice of optimizing health, preventing injury, and enhancing the performance of basketball players.

There's already the STMS (The Society for Tennis Medicine and Science). There should be an SBMS (Society for Basketball Medicine and Science) as well, don't you think? I do, but we're getting off the subject here...........

Usually, when I want to see what other folks are up to, I perform a google search for "basketball medicine" . What comes up? Well, this blog, for one, but otherwise, mostly ads for medicine balls that can be used in training for basketball (and an ocassional reference to the Medicine Hat College Women's Basketball Team - Go Rattlers).

It's time to recognize the use of Medicine Ball Drills for basketball training.

And, personal allegiances aside, I can think of no better person to offer a list of medicine ball drills for basketball than Jonas Sahratian, the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator of the UNC Men's Basketball team.

Here's a link to the article that appeared last year in Men's Health.

Remember, though, this workout is really for older (ages 16+ for girls and 18+ for boys) players who are more physically mature. If you're in that older age group and want to increase your core strength, and power - this would be a good addition to your current workouts. Start slow, increase your load, and measure your results (how you feel, how you move, how you improve your performance on the court).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's the Best Mouth Guard for Basketball?

Associated Press

After my post lamenting the fact that many NBA players still "don't get it" when it comes to wearing a mouth guard, one of my readers asked a great question - which mouth guard would I recommend?

A while back, I wrote about the most common types of mouth guards out there.
A little while later (and after more than 35 years of playing basketball without one- yeah, I'm old) I decided that I'd have to buy my own mouth guard to avoid being a hypocritical "do as I say, not as I do" advice-giver.

I knew that a simple plastic mouth guard wouldn't work (I'd seen too many people gagging and drooling while wearing one) so I went and bought a Shock Doctor brand "boil and bite" type mouth guard from the local Dick's Sporting Goods store . After following the directions to make a custom fit, I used it for the next month or so. It was OK, but not completly comfortable and sometimes made it hard to call out picks/switches, etc.

Finally, I went to my local dentist and had them make an impression of my bite. They sent this out to a company and a few weeks later, I returned to their office to have my custom-molded mouth guard fit. At first, it felt pretty much like the boil and bite I was using before, but, after they trimmed it a few times, it slipped over my upper teeth, fell easily into place, and hardly felt like it was there. Total cost was around $150.

Needless to say, I've been most happy with my mouth guard, wear it when I play, and have been thankful that I was wearing it on several occasions when an errant(?) elbow hit my mouth.

Now I know that not everybody can afford a custom molded mouth guard from their dentist, and I know that younger players might outgrow several pairs of mouth guards, having to buy new ones every so often. I also know there are other options, like Sportsguard Custom Mouthguards where you make your own mold, send it off to the company, and then get your personalized mouth guard in the mail a few weeks later. It's less expensive ($55-$65), and is an option for those do-it-yourself ballers.

So what's the best option for you? Every dentist will tell you that the only one that works well is the custom-made guard from your dentist's office. While I agree with them, not everyone can afford this. Bottom-line - "The best mouth guard is the one that's worn".

So, while I'd recommend getting a custom-made mouth guard from your dentist, you've got to try the different types out yourself and decide.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tough Break

Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
Best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Aussie guard Patty Mills, a good person and an excellent ballplayer who broke his right 5th metatarsal bone last week before the NBA Summer League even began.
While Portland Trailblazer releases stated that they wouldn't know how long he might be out until after his surgery (performed yesterday- no news yet), I'd hazard a guess that he sustained a Jones fracture (one of three ways/locations where you can break the 5th metatarsal bone), which can require placement of a screw followed by 6-8 weeks of recovery before returning to the court.
Mills, who had an unrelated metacarpal (bone in the hand) fracture earlier this year, is still young, relatively small and light (less pounding over time) and still has great potential. Here's hoping this unfortunate break only delays an eventually successful NBA career.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lakers Have No 'Guards

Mouth guards, that is.

A few weeks ago, a reader wrote " Hi. I've seen a few of your blog posts on the importance of wearing mouthguards. I even got one myself a few months ago. Now, in watching the NBA Finals, I made a point of counting the number of players who were wearing mouthguards. And.. I only counted two: Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. I didn't see anybody else. What gives?

Knowing that several players wear clear mouth guards that aren't easy to spot, I decided to first find out if this reader's count was true.

After speaking with the Head Athletic Trainers for both the Lakers and the Magic (special thanks to Gary Vitti and Tom Smith for their time), I was disappointed to hear that only 4 players on the Magic (Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Adonal Foyle & Tony Battie) wear mouth guards on a regular basis. (I was also impressed by the readers astute observation).

Worse, NONE of the LA Lakers wear mouth guards! (Not even Pau Gasol who has braces on his teeth and is just one elbow away from some severe lip shredding).

I learned that several Lakers (including Kobe) have tried wearing mouth guards but have chosen not to wear them.

So What gives?

If they're like their counterparts in other countries (where research has been done to better understand why professional basketball players choose to not wear mouth guards), it's either because they feel they can't breath, speak, or play as well when their mouthguards in place.

And what about professional football players (who all wear mouthguards), boxers, and other sports where everyone uses mouthguards? They wear them because they are required to and, more importantly, have worn them since they were young (and hence, they've gotten used to the feeling).

To be honest, I'm disappointed that so few players on these two teams wear mouth guards. I wish they had the foresight to protect themselves from some serious harm, but it's a free country and, for now at least, the NBA, NCAAA, NHSAA and AAU don't require it (but maybe they should start - Research has shown that dental injuries in basketball happen 13 times more often than dental injuries in football).

It would be interesting to do some research on NBA players and their use (and feelings about using) mouth guards during practice and games. If there are any aspiring dental researchers out there, send me an e-mail at pdrehab@med.unc.edu

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

I had the pleasure of being involved in the Eric Montross Father's Day Basketball Camp this past week. Eric and Laura Montross have been running the camp for 15 years, with proceeds benefitting the North Carolina Children's Hospital (a great cause).

The best thing about this camp is that it allows both the children (boys and girls) as well as their fathers, to participate in the drills, games, meals, etc.

I and some of our resident physicians, along with volunteers from the camp, ran the (younger) campers through stations similar to what college athletes are asked to do at the NBA Combine each year.

In 50 minutes of "well-controlled chaos", the boys and girls were measured (height, wingspan), tested (vertical jump, 3/4 court sprint, lane agility, flexibility) and given a peek at their future (estimated adult heights).

I got to calculate their adult heights (based on a multiplier-method formula) and enjoyed seeing the happiness in the eyes of those who were told that they would be taller than their mom/dad.

I expect that most of the father's were equally happy when their children shared this information with them. After all, don't all parents hope that their children will outgrow, outperform, out-do them as adults?

Happy Father's Day to you all.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eat Your Wheaties(?)

An article that just came out in the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition touts the advantages of eating Wheaties after a workout, saying it helps the body recover from exercise better than a sports drink.

In their recent (May 14) article entitled Cereal and nonfat milk support muscle recovery following exercise, researchers from the Exercise Physiology and Metabolism Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin examined the effects of eating cereal and (nonfat) milk or a sports drink immediately following exercise on the body's ability to make glycogen (muscle fuel) and protein (a building block for muscle growth).

In the experiment subjects either drank two 20-ounce bottles of a 6% carbohydrate sports drink or ate a bowl (73 grams) of Wheaties with 350 ml nonfat milk (and some additional water).

The subjects then exercised by riding stationary bicycles and blood and muscle tissue studies were performed before and after they ate/drank either the cereal and milk or the sports drink to analyze how well their muscles recovered from the exercise.

The authors concluded that their results "suggest that Cereal is as good as a commercially-available sports drink in initiating post-exercise muscle recovery." and went on to say the "readily available foods such as cereal and nonfat milk can provide postexercise supplementation and be used in lieu of a commercially-available sports drink after moderate exercise. Cereal and nonfat milk provide a less expensive whole food option as compared to sports drinks. It also provides easily digestible and quality protein in the milk, which could promote protein synthesis and training adaptations, unlike a carbohydrate sports drink. This is a potential option for individuals who refuel at home".

OK. I agree with all that they say, but let's take a closer look at the real-world implications.
While this may be an option for people who run/bike and finish their workout at home, not every basketball player is going to be that close to a cupboard and refrigerator when they're out on the court or at a tournament.

More importantly, the authors aren't really comparing eating cereal and milk to the "gold standard" recovery drinks that include protein (and not just carbohydrate-only drinks like in this study).
And what about just plain old chocolate milk?

To their credit, the authors admit that "Although muscle response during recovery to a carbohydrate-protein drink may be similar to that seen after whole-grain cereal and nonfat milk, we chose to compare a carbohydrate-only drink."


Because "Recreational athletes may be more familiar with carbohydrate drinks due to high product awareness and accessibility, and may not understand the benefit of added protein in post-exercise supplementation."

I think that's taking it a little out there, but it's understandable that a conclusion like this would be reached in a study that was supported by Wheaties and the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

While this may be true for many recreational athletes, I hope that readers of this blog will know better and will understand the difference between sports drinks that rehydrate and "recovery drinks".

One other implication of using cereal and milk to refuel - it usually takes the stomach longer to process/digest solid foods like cereal than it does liquids. So think twice about eating cereal and milk if you don't have much time between games of a tournament, unless you don't mind cramping up on the court.

All that being said, I think that Wheaties and milk is an excellent option for breakfast (and late night snacks).

Breakfast of Champions? Absolutely.
The best Post-exercise recovery option? I'm not convinced.

P.S. - Congratulations to the 2008-2009 UNC Men's Basketball Team. I guess the Wheaties Box pictured above needs to be updated to 6-Time National Champions (5 men's and 1 women's).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wayman Tisdale


Time to get back into it.
It's been 3 months (to the day) since my last blog post. On January 15, 2009, I wrote about Coach Kay Yow and her battle against Breast Cancer. The post was written from my father's hospital bedside as he was recovering from surgery to treat his pancreatic cancer.
Unfortunately, the cancer had progressed too far by that time and he decided to forego chemotherapy and entered hospice care. I and the rest of my family took time off from our other pursuits to be with him and my mother and to make sure that he was comfortable.
Last month, he died peacefully at his home, and I began to mourn his loss.
I wasn't sure when I'd feel ready to start writing about basketball medicine again. It's a topic I love to think about and discuss, but it just didn't feel right to return to it. The piles of related research articles and papers grew on my desk as I waited for the time that it felt right to return to this blog.
Now's the time.
I previously wrote about Mr Tisdale in an earlier post. As I learned more about him, I realized that this was a man who contributed in many different ways, not just on the basketball court.
In an AP News article from today, the Governor of the State of Oklahoma said, "Wayman Tisdale was a hero both on and off the basketball court. ... Even in the most challenging of times, he had a smile for people, and he had the rare ability to make everyone around him smile. He was one of the most inspirational people I have ever known."
Kirk Whalum, a jazz saxaphonist who worked with Tisdale, described him as "a big guy with a big sound and just an incredibly warm and gentle heart. "
That's the kind of person you want to have in your life, not just on the court. And the world is a better place when people like him can excel in basketball, and use that noteriety to touch people's lives.
It touched mine today. Having been born in the same year as Mr Tisdale, his life, cut too short, motivates me to get back into it now and do what I can to help others enjoy, participate, and learn from the game of basketball.
May he rest in peace (and harmony).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Coach Kay

No, this post is not about Coach K, it's about Kay Yow, the legendary women's basketball coach at North Carolina State University. Despite a long battle with breast cancer, she has continued to coach (basketball) and teach (about life) and inspire thousands of others to be not only better players, but better people.

In her honor, I've decided to add two more Basketball Charitable Organization Links (on the lower right column of this blog). While not directly involving basketball, these organizations use the power of the game (and the people who love it) to raise funds to fight cancer.

Why focus on cancer? Not only is it predicted to become the leading cause of death in the world by 2010, it's also become very personal to me. At the moment, I'm at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where my father has just underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer, discovered a short while ago.

The diagnosis changes everything - who you are, what you think about. It also clarifies and crystalizes things - like what's important in your life.

While I spend more time thinking about my father's cancer and lending help and support to him and my mother, I'll be spending less time on this blog.

I'll still upload content, but not as much for a while. It gives me pleasure to share my thoughts and to see that, in some small way, I can help others learn important information, so I'm sure I'll get back to blogging more in the future.

In the meantime, don't forget to tell your parents (and anyone else important in your life) that you love them. And consider donating to the V Foundation or to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund so that researchers can find more cures, and good people won't be taken too early from this earth.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hand's Down

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Best wishes for a quick recovery to Denver Nuggets' star Carmelo Anthony, who suffered a non-displaced third metacarpal fracture in his right hand in the 3rd quarter of last night's game against the Indiana Pacers.

As reported by ESPN.COM , Anthony sustained the injury to his shooting hand when the Pacers' Jeff Foster slapped down on him as he was going up for a shot.

While they don't occur as often as ankle sprains and knee injuries, hand and finger injuries are not uncommon in a ball-sport like basketball.
Most people who play often enough will eventually have a jammed finger, mallet finger, dislocation, or fracture. Wrist injuries are also commonly seen and fractures of the scaphoid bone are often missed because someone assumes it's a (more commonly seen) wrist sprain.

Chris Mullin, the former St Johns and Golden State Warriors shooter supreme, went through 3 hand surgeries during his career. Although, they were to his right (non-shooting) hand, he once said, "Saying it's OK because the injury is to the non-shooting hand is like saying it's OK to have an injury to your non-walking foot".

So what will likely happen to Melo?
  • He'll get a splint to support his wrist and hand while he heals.
  • He may get some electrical stimulation or hyperbaric oxygen treatments to help with bone healing.
  • He'll keep working out to maintain his cardiovascular fitness and strength.
  • As time goes by, he'll get some occupational therapy to work on regaining strength and flexibility in his right hand.
  • He can work on his left hand skill more.
  • Once cleared to return to practice, it will probably take some time to get his shot back and regain his confidence that he can take some bumps and bruises without the injury recurring.

He's demonstrated his toughness in the past. Here's hoping that he'll come back and play well with the hand he's been dealt (sorry).