1. How did you get into the field of sports medicine / strength and conditioning?
I originally started working at Northeastern University in the summer of 2003. At that time I came on as the athletic trainer working with Men's Soccer, Men's Basketball and Baseball. Needless to say there wasn't a lot of time to hone my skills as an athletic trainer, let alone become a strength coach. However, during that time I became good friends with the strength coach for Men's and Women's Basketball team, Ray Eady, who I will forever be indebted to for teaching me the ropes at the Division one level. Ray did such an amazing job with our team that he was hired on at the University of Akron as their basketball Strength Coach and now works at the University of Wisconsin with the women's program there. With Ray's departure from Northeastern, the door was left open for me to step in and continue Ray's programming while implementing some of my own philosophies. Since that time I have been able to merge both athletic training and strength training into one performance philosophy with our basketball team and now have the opportunity to do so with our entire student-athlete population in my new position of Director of Sports Performance.
2. Who in the field has influenced or helped you the most? Influence your training philosophy? What have you learned from them that you can you share?
As I mentioned previously Ray Eady had a tremendous impact on the way I evaluate and train the basketball athlete. Prior to Northeastern, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by four of the smartest athletic trainers in the business, Pete Koehneke, Andy Smith and Mike Dolan at Canisius College and Mark Laursen, Director of Athletic Training Services at Boston University. While I was at Boston University I was able to take graduate courses with Mike Potenza, (current strength coach for the San Jose Sharks), and learn from current Director of Strength and Conditioning Glenn Harris as well as Mike Boyle. Most recently, I have been fortunate enough to be able to discuss training concepts with Dr. Stuart McGill with particular focus on the basketball athlete.
For anyone that hasn't read McGill's work, stop reading this and go get anyone of his books or dvd's!
McGill brings an evidence based approach to both his evaluation process and training programs. If you've worked with a basketball athlete you've surely observed the very tall spine of the basketball athlete and have discussed with friends whether this body type has the ability to handle various exercises without causing problems. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on with regards to the front squat, back squat, Olympic lifting or other, McGill's stabilization exercises are a must for all basketball athletes looking to preserve their spine health. In personal communication with Dr. McGill, an emphasis in frontal plane stability may very well be of paramount importance while planning a training program for this sport and ultimately performance on the court.
To illustrate this concept, simply think about a guard crossing over a defender and the need to rapidly and efficiently contract, then relax his left lateral line (Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum and Glute Medius) to push from his left to his right, followed by the same rapid and efficient contraction followed by relaxation of the right lateral line as he plants his right foot and crosses back over to the left to beat his defender.
I've made a number of changes in our programming to not only address, but emphasize the frontal plane, especially for guards by including asymmetrical kettle bell lunges, farmer carries and a variety of side bridges to name a few.
3. Name 3-5 books every professional working with basketball athletes should have in their library and why?
In a recent post entitled, "Must reads that have nothing to do with strength" I outlined books that I think every strength coach should have in their collection, but this certainly holds true with athletic trainers, physical therapists and anyone who cares for the basketball athlete. The normal list includes the following:
- Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairments by Shirley Sharman
- Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers
- Low Back Disorders by Dr. Stuart McGill and
- Athletic Body in Balance by Gray Cook to name a few.
The two that I make special mention to however related to professional development, a concept many involved in athletics sometimes forget about due to travel with teams, administrative duties and pure number of hours engaged at work. If you get a chance during a plane ride this coming season, or during this summer vacation time check out Good to Great by Jim Collins and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.
For a complete review of both books visit "Must reads that have nothing to do with strength"
4. What assessments or evaluations do you use with your players during pre-season?
Besides the traditional screening protocol and questions that all athletic trainers and sports medicine departments put incoming athletes through, we have utilized the following examination with all of our Men's Basketball athletes in previous years:
Vision Screening: we've found that many of our athletes either have never had a full eye exam, or the lenses/glasses that they currently use are not up to date. After evaluation, a minor tweak in their prescription makes a significant improvement both on the court and in the classroom.
Concussion Screening: establishes a baseline to help determine return to play if a concussion were to happen.
Functional Movement Screen: We test all basketball athletes anywhere from 3-4 times per year with scores of either zero or one being referred to the Sports Medicine department, (and ultimately me) for a full orthopedic evaluation. Corrective exercises are then prescribed and inserted at the beginning of training sessions and/or given as "homework" for the athlete to complete on their own time.
Goniometry measurements: including ankle dorsiflexion in prone position, passive knee extension with hip at 90 degrees, passive knee flexion in modified Thomas test position.
Tender Points Evaluation: lateral gastroc, lateral hamstring, glute medius, lateral quad, thoracic spine, and adductors. We then address these globally with foam rolling, stretching or other soft tissue work. Some individual active release techniques may have to be incorporated on a one-on-one treatment program within the Sports Medicine Department.
Left/Right single leg broad jump discrepancy: hands on hips, single leg jump and hold - looking for difference in strength and ability to hold landing. Differences over 10% are noted, with differences over 15% given special exercise programming to address this deficiency.
Previous Injury: we make a special effort to exam and address all previous injuries, even those that are not causing any pain or disability during examination - regardless of how minor they may have been. If an athlete has been injured in the past, evidence supports that they are more likely to be injured again in the future. This holds especially true for those incoming freshmen who may not have properly rehabilitated their injury at their previous high school or prep academy.