Can the Bulls do anything to work through injuries better?

Can the Bulls do anything to work through injuries better?

There are certain types of injuries which are unavoidable. Carlos Boozer tripping over a bag, Joakim Noah jamming his thumb on the rim, Luol Deng tearing a ligament in his wrist. Bad luck. Nothing you can do about that. When those injuries happen, it stinks, we live with it and move on. However, what about some of the other injuries? Is their more Chicago could do?

The Bulls have had several problems over the past five years that show a breakdown in the system where they manage injuries. It started perhaps with Eddy Curry's "heart condition" which he was cleared to play through by other doctors, went on to Luol Deng's stress fracture in his leg which went misdiagnosed badly enough that the Bulls put out a public press release throwing him under the bus, and has continued on to overuse, aggravation of injuries due to coming back too early, and compensatory injuries from existing injuries the past two seasons.

There are many factors at play, and I'm not an insider to know which of them is really the problem.

Do the doctors/trainers not diagnose properly?
Do the doctors/trainers give poor recommendations for when to come back?
Do the players not provide honest enough responses about how they're feeling?
Are the right tests not being done to validate the the present state of the injuries?
Do the coaches overplay the guys in return or overplay them in the season when they're worn down?

I'm not going to guess where the problem lies except to note that there is a problem. In last year's playoffs, Boozer didn't appear able to dunk a basketball due to injuries he initially suffered in the regular season and aggravated further against Indiana [possibly compensatory]. Derrick Rose wasn't 100%, and Joakim Noah never fully came back from problems he had in the regular season.

Did these guys need more rest? Did they need different physical therapy exercises to build up muscle? Perhaps there was nothing that could be done. Perhaps this simply was what it was.

Or perhaps, there's another answer, and the Bulls need to think out of the box a bit like the Phoenix Suns.

If you have some time check out this article discussing the chronic injuries of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy from a doctor who was sent in to test them, had a plan on how to heal them, had evidence to what was wrong, and was summarily ignored by Blazers management.

The Suns, known to have the best medical staff in the league, follow many of the above concepts. They've taken guys with horrible injury histories like Grant Hill and Michael Redd while keeping a veteran like Steve Nash who's a physically smaller guy playing big minutes at an advanced age as well.

It's time for a review of the system. Nagging injuries were a significant factor in why the Bulls were unable to play at their best last season. They could be a major factor in why they don't when the title this year as well. No one needs to go through and fire everyone in sight, but it is time to take a serious look at what can be done better.

Chicago wouldn't flinch at bringing in a free agent to improve the team on the court, they shouldn't flinch at bringing in someone to upgrade and help reinvent the Bulls training staff either. No one can prevent Derrick Rose from rolling an ankle, but we can prevent the compensatory back, knee, or foot injuries that occur if he does. It's a copycat league, and the Suns have already solved this problem. It's time to copy the solution.

Magic number update

Magic number vs the Heat: 1
Magic number vs the Thunder: 1
Magic number vs the Spurs: 2

Knicks magic number for 7 seed: 2
- Knicks have LAC and @Charlotte
- Philly has @NJ, @Mil, @Detroit (if Philly loses tonight at NJ and Milwaukee wins against Toronto then Milwaukee will still be alive for the playoffs in the second game, if not, Milwaukee will be eliminated)

While the Knicks are rumored to prefer playing the Bulls, they sure didn't act like it on the court when they squeaked past the Hawks under Melo's 42 minutes played. It looks to me that the Knicks are opting to build chemistry rather than tank to get a matchup against Chicago. We'll see what happens down the stretch. New York is a half game up on Philly now (1 in the win column) and owns the tie breaker.


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  • The story you linked to was not written by a doctor actually. I did take the time to read it and it seems like he just assesses people with 3-D motion sensors without any specific qualifications or medical training. For starters, publishing client results like that is a serious breech of confidentially and the claims made about Brandon Roy's meniscal damage is clearly ludicrous. I'm not saying the medical staff at the Blazers or even the Bulls are any good, I'm only mentioning it because there are a lot of armchair experts out there who will tell you all sorts of crap if there's money involved.

  • In reply to Dave:

    I agree though that the Bulls training staff appear to have had a bad year. Maybe that's just chance or maybe there's something systemic involved. You'd think that they could afford to pay for the best medical staff though so maybe there's pressure on them from coaching staff or management?

  • In reply to Dave:

    I'm not necessarily buying everything the guy talking about Roy/Oden is selling, but the idea that the Bulls could take a more complete body preventative approach to care makes sense to me.

    The Suns have implemented this, if the Bulls aren't too sure who to hire, go to the guy running the Suns staff and double his salary.

  • The injury problems are as much the fault of the players and coaches as they are the fault of the training staff. Players want to play, coaches want players to play, and trainers are paid to get players ready to play. Trainers need to make sure they have a solid relationship with players so that they can get a full assessment of the problem. If trainers are holding out players who are itching to play, what do you think is going to happen? The players are going to lie to the trainers and minimize their injuries. You can't treat a guy who isn't telling you what hurts. And if you hold out guys every time they tell you something hurts, they aren't going to tell you anything hurts anymore.

    And coaches who don't hold out players only make the problem worse. Thibs seems to have a good approach in that he makes players go through a full practice before they can play in games, but a lot of guys don't do that.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    With a more full body approach you can have guys do the right therapy exercises to make sure their bodies are in balance though. Physical therapists can test this, it isn't something that the player can fake their way through.

  • Pax and Reinsdorf were both around when the Bulls had a relatively healthy run through eight winning seasons and six championships. I'd be surprised if they hired or kept on sub par trainers etc. That doesn't mean it's not possible. Before Derrick's arrival everybody pretty much thought Reinsdorf had gone on the cheap, putting his resources into his other pro team and his true passion of baseball.. Plus Pax had nothing to do with hiring the previous staff.

    Regardless, Luol Deng throughout his career has been injury prone as has Derrick really. He's just never been sidelined by them before. Joakim, Booz etc. it's just one of those things in my book. Everything doesn't have a solution, but if Doug or anybody else has substantiated proof that the Bulls staff is inept then by all means report it.

    Meanwhile speaking of injuries I thought Rose looked slow and very limited against Dallas. May have been by design, but that might be the least mobile I've ever seen him in a game. It's hard to see him being healthy for the playoffs at this point which is not good. Maybe after all the setbacks and bad news he will pull out of it and heal up, but it's hard to imagine at this point. Could Hamilton's comeback be an omern of good things to come? Nah, we're screwed.

  • They could throw some dirt on the injuries and tell 'em to get back out there.

  • I definately wonder why Rose came back several times this season at much less than 100% only to get re-injured within a few games. I know hindsight is 20/20 but near the end of the season why bring back the star of your team early knowing that he is going to be compensating for un-healed injuries and run a high risk of re-injury or sustaining a new injury due to compensating for the current one... Maybe they are not the Hornets who brought Eric Gordon back from knee injury too early and essentially blew his season but the Bulls injury management sucks.

    I heard Grant Hill praising the Suns training staff on an interview with NBA TV and he was basically saying they are the reason he is still playing at a high level at an age most never make it to in the NBA. I don't know what kind of Tom Cruise voodoo magic they are working with down there in Pheonix but Jerry needs to bring it to the Bulls!

  • The article on Roy & Oden was interesting, I'd assumed that NBA teams were already using that kind of stuff given the amount they're paying in player wages. Seems penny wise, pound foolish given just keeping your best players on the floor is half the battle.

    I guess a lot of it comes down to tradition and people not wanting to be told how they've always done it is wrong. For example the biomechanics type approach is seeing adoption in cricket where back injuries are common for fast bowlers, yet you'll always get cranky ex-players complaining the medical wonks are ruining a player by making him bowl the wrong way. The fact that if you have repeated stress fractures in your back you end up not having a career doesn't seem to figure into the thinking.

  • Thibs seems to have a mentality more like that of an NFL coach, so maybe guys think that if they can walk, they have to play.

    It could be as simple as that, although you would think that he would have picked up a bit of discretion working with Doc and the Celtics.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Thibs argued against Doc Rivers resting the aging Celtics before the playoffs in 2010. Doc rested them anyway, despite Thibs objections, and got them to Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

    Thibs wanted the Celtic vets to keep on grinding and not rest up for the playoffs. Thibs was wrong in 2010, he's wrong now.

  • I applaud Doug for linking these two excellent articles discussing a far more intelligent approach to treating and preventing injuries in multi-million dollar athletes. You have educated those of us willing to read and consider.

    It is obvious from listening to interviews of Bulls’ players that Bulls’ trainers practice “standard modalities” like ultrasound, ice, steam, massage, stim, (electrical stimulation), etc. We’ve never heard a single Bulls player discuss correcting imbalances, strengthening inherent weaknesses, or improving range of motion. Related or compensatory injuries must seem like “voodoo” to traditional medical practitioners who treat injuries in isolation like the Bulls or Portland’s training staffs.

    Toe > Back > Groin > Ankle > Foot… Don’t worry they’re all random and unrelated.

    Just having an M.D. after one’s name doesn’t make one an expert, or correct. The M.D. degree simply allows a state government to issue a license. There exists in this world many people far more intelligent than M.D.s. Doug just gave us two fine examples of intelligence regarding training NBA athletes. And here in Chicago we are living through a present day example of how not to treat NBA athletes.

    I loved the example of the Phoenix trainer Aaron Nelson instructing head coach Alvin Gentry how many minutes to play the Suns’ players. Can you imagine Thibs taking direction like that? I’m ROFLing.

    Thibs plays Rose 39 minutes in a marquee ABC televised game in Madison Square Garden. How’s that for easing back from injury? Detroit is another 40 minutes - and Rose misses more time immediately after both games. Thibs and the Bulls trainers are cavemen when it comes to managing player’s health.

    The difficulty is getting Neanderthals to admit they are in fact cavemen, and that someone else may know better. There are HUGE EGOs involved. I wish someone could deliver these two articles to Derrick Rose or his agent B.J. Armstrong.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Have no doubt about it Edward, the glasses are on this guy, Thibs, because he seems to feel he can get away with anything mainly because of the team's success, but Bulls management do read this Blog and appreciate opinions raised here. They have their own uneasiness about this head coach who spent most of his life as an assistant. One has a right to question his moves when it comes to players' health.

    The biggest mistake management can make is to give Thibs total control of everything pertaining to his players' health. He could be insane enough to kill them in his drive for success, the same sadistic streak that would make him mistreat players for his own secret displeasure at how they approach his teaching.

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