by Brian McCormick
I played in a rec-league basketball game for the first time in two years tonight. Two weeks ago, when I moved into m condo, I tweaked my back lifting my bed. When I grapple, I feel weak on my left side and am occasionally hopeless when I need to generate force on that side to try and roll or shrimp to improve my position. I can play, and I do not feel injured, but I know it’s there.
This often happens to young athletes, especially with ankle injuries. They hurt something or tweak something, but they are not hurt so bad that they cannot play. However, the injury, if left untreated, affects their performance.
When we warmed up for the game tonight, I shot three-pointers. I felt my body twisting as I shot. My body is usually pretty still as I shoot. However, I turned to the left.
There are two possible explanations in my mind: (1) I was compensating because my legs are not as strong as they used to be; or (2) the weakness through my core on my left side inhibits my ability to stabilize my body through a dynamic movement. I cannot resist the force to maintain a stabile position throughout my shot.
With ankle injuries, the same thing occurs. Players hurt their ankles, but continue to play. However, their range of motion decreases, and they favor one leg. If this goes unnoticed for long enough, this compensatory motor pattern becomes their “normal” motor pattern. Trying to return to the original motor pattern now feels awkward because the player has adapted to the pattern borne from the injury and the compensation.
In my case, I need to lift more and find ways to strengthen my back without hurting it further. I do some light core work, but grappling twice a week and demonstrating weightlifting lifts twice per week to my class prohibits a full recovery, but that’s a decision that I make.
For a player with an ankle injury, I advise players to stand on one leg and draw the alphabet in the air with the other. This is a classic rehab exercise that works in two ways: (1) it is a single-leg balance exercise and studies show that the ability to stand on one leg without any perturbations reduces one’s likelihood of injuring his or her ankle; and (2) by writing the alphabet with his or her foot, the player works through the full range of motion and breaks up any scar tissue or anything affecting the full extension or flexion of the joint.
This is one example. When a player’s skill performance changes negatively, often it could be as a compensation for something else. Before instructing more or worrying about the skill execution, we need to address the movement and reduce the injury or lingering effects of an injury to prevent a compensatory motor pattern from becoming normal.
Brian McCormick, CSCS, M.S.S.
Author: Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development