The NBA Finals will resume this evening without one of its brightest stars Kyrie Irving due to a fractured knee cap suffered in Game One. Irving is one of the most exciting point guards in the NBA. I recall watching him as a high school senior during a televised game on ESPN and within minutes I knew he was going to be a special player in the NBA. The same thoughts in only 11 games he played at Duke University due to a tore ligament in his right toe.
During his NBA career he has suffered many injuries including a concussion, sprained right shoulder, broken hand, broken index finger, fractured jaw, hyperextended knee, sprained left shoulder, right nasal fracture, bruised knee, and this season foot and knee issues that finally led to a fractured knee cap in Game One of the NBA Finals.
Why would a player such as Kyrie Irving be so injury prone? Bad luck? Poor conditioning? They are both fair questions. As a personal trainer and sports fan I have a few observations that contribute to Irving’s injuries and how he can address them.
Irving is listed at 6’3”, 193 lbs. Looking at his frame he is very lean that is not muscular. Basketball players are guilty of straying away from strength training in fear it will diminish their quickness and accuracy of their shooting. I do not know if that is the case with Irving, but with the history of injuries and physical appearance I strongly believe he falls into that category.
Strengthening your core, legs and hips are essential for a basketball players strength and conditioning. A player’s arms are constantly overhead, which requires the shoulders to work. A player extending their arms on the offensive or defensive end will result in a foul being called. In order to hold position a player must use their core, legs and hips.
The opposing point guard in these NBA Finals, the Warriors Stephen Curry is listed at 6’3”, 190 lbs. Early in his career Curry had continuous issues with his ankles. Curry played just 26 games in 2011-12 because of ankle problems. But he played 80 games this season. He missed one game because of a sore ankle in February and another for rest.
The Warriors' director of athletic performance, Keke Lyles, a leading expert in injury prevention and maximizing body potential through the use of cutting-edge technology like STATS LLC's SportVU cameras and Catapult Sports' GPS accelerometers to track movement has worked with Curry to improve his core and leg strength.
According to James Hebert of CBS Sports, Lyles stated that Curry can deadlift 400 lbs. "Steph's the second strongest on our team pulling that one," Lyles says with a straight face. "For his size, Steph is ridiculous strong." Deadlifts are a powerful compound exercise that engage the entire body, especially the core, glutes, and hamstrings.
"His ability to control his body in space is unlike anyone I've seen," Lyles says. "He's super quick, but the whole time he's in total control. He's doing such high-speed movements, accels, decels -- and he's in total control."
Michael Jordan had to reevaluate his training after beating physically pounded by the Detroit Pistons in three consecutive playoff series defeats (1988-90). Jordan entrusted a 25 year old trainer who did not have previous experience working with professional athletes in Tim Grover. As the saying goes...the rest is history.
Grover focused on improving Jordan’s core strength. "Many athletes do hundreds of crunches and neglect their oblique and erector muscles," Grover said. "Injury can occur if any part of the core is weak."
Basketball is not a game focused on measurables such as 40 yard dash times and vertical leaps. More focus is on repeated explosive movements in multiple directions. In Irving’s case his offseason will be focused on rehabilitation for 3-4 months. I hope he solicits the help of a trainer that will build and strengthen his body for the rigors of a NBA season. He’s an exceptional talent and with LeBron James will be contending for championships for several seasons, if he can stay healthy.
Health and Wellness Consultant/Certified Personal Trainer