Kobe Bryant and Gary Vitti might both be out of the league, but that doesn't stop them from wondering about how to improve it. Injuries are always going to be a major storyline in professional sports, especially as athletes get stronger, faster and generally more explosive. We're pushing the human body to lengths it's rarely seen and, in doing so, are running the risk of maybe going further than we should.
Bryant and Vitti played pretty major roles in an excellent column written by ESPN's Baxter Holmes and Tom Haberstroh in which they try to find the cause of the increasing number of NBA injuries.
Vitti offered a cautionary and somewhat depressing take on the effect the schedule has on the game we watch night-in, night-out:
"Unfortunately, we'll never really see what these guys can really do," Vitti said recently while sitting in a lounge at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo, California, "because they're tired all of the time because of the schedule."
Then, Kobe mentioned a deeper issue starting with how kids are raised in playing the game:
"Looking back, when I grew up, I played soccer until I was about 14," Bryant says, "and so when I came back to the States [from Italy] when I was 14, that's when AAU was starting to take off, and I literally played basketball all day, every day, every tournament, everywhere, which does nothing but wear the knee cartilage out -- which explains why I didn't have much cartilage left in 2003."
The way kids are forced into single-sport situations has always seemed troubling. I grew up playing multiple sports (yes, there once was a time I could run for extended stretches without feeling like I might actually die) and studies have shown recently that doing so builds up muscles throughout the body, mitigating some injury risk. The theory: by playing a single sport, muscles are worn down much more quickly as they're used so much more often than those of a multi-sport athlete.
The article is greatly interesting and gets to several other aspects of a hugely important issue. It's well worth yours, or anyone's time who've ever wondered if there might be more injuries nowadays compared to years past.
You can follow the author of this article at @AnthonyIrwinLA