ANDREW BOGUT: Injury-prone or Unlucky?

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» Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:29 pm ... r-unlucky/

An older article (from January, prior to the trade) but a great read. I highlighted my favorite part in bold.
zclowe wrote:The science of injuries, and specifically of predicting injuries, is among the least-advanced types of analysis in professional sports. People who study this sort of thing are pretty certain at this point that very tall people — 7-footers — are more likely to suffer foot, ankle and knee injuries. And it seems logical to exercise caution when a player enters the NBA with pre-existing health issues — knee surgeries, concussions, whatever.

But the holy grail is for teams to be able to place two equivalent, healthy players side-by-side, conduct a series of tests and determine whether one is more “injury-prone” than the other. And at this point, what we don’t know about the notion of being injury-prone trumps what we do know by such a large degree, that even throwing around the phrase injury-prone seems dicey.

“There is no data, anywhere, NBA or otherwise, to predict who gets injured,” says F.D. Kharrazi, a surgeon at the Los Angeles-based Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic who also consults for the Lakers. Trainers and executives around the league wish such data existed in even a semi-reliable form; if some tech company comes up with an acceptable way to test for injury predictability in sports, it will make a huge amount of money. A team in the English Premier League has experimented with genetic tests, but a major subset of NBA players and their advocates would resist such testing, since it raises privacy concerns and brings the possibility of a player testing out as injury-prone on shaky scientific grounds and losing millions of dollars.

“It’s very unscientific at this stage,” says Will Carroll, an expert on sports injuries and a contributor to “You have doctors and trainers and coaches looking at it, but it’s still a whole lot of guessing.”

Carroll, by the way, believes in the concept that an individual’s genetic makeup can make him or her injury-prone. The connection between tall people and leg/foot injuries is real, he said. And some people likely have weaker ligaments, just as some people are at greater risk for heart attack.

But actually finding those people, making firm conclusions about their likelihood of suffering an injury and then connecting an actual injury to some predisposition? We are far from that, especially when it comes to traumatic injuries — random falls, breaks and horribly wrong steps that come when you run, cut and jump for a living. Doing all of those things at high speeds obviously increases one’s chances of being injured, but all of those activities sum up roughly to the sport of basketball.

I bring this up in connection with Andrew Bogut, who fractured his ankle earlier this week when he jumped and came down on Samuel Dalembert’s foot. Bogut is expected to miss 8-12 weeks, hurting Milwaukee’s chances of snagging a playoff spot, and he hinted last night in a tweet that he is receiving lots of negative feedback from “keyboard heroes, with their negativity.” Judging by the responses I received when tweeting about Bogut’s injury, much of that negative feedback comes from those either questioning Bogut’s toughness or arguing he is injury-prone.

Bogut suffered a classic freak basketball injury against Houston. He jumped, he landed on something other than the horizontal floor, and his lower leg bent in a certain way. The best way to prevent that injury would be to not play basketball — or to not try hard while playing basketball. The injury that really torpedoed Bogut’s career, and which is slowly emerging as a depressing moment for fans, was a similar freak injury: Bogut caught a full-court outlet pass on the run, jumped for a dunk, got a little shove in the back from Amar’e Stoudemire, swung further than he expected on the rim and fell to the court in a very dangerous way. He tried to break the fall with his right arm, and you can see what happened in the video.

Bogut is thus injury-prone in the sense that he is tall, plays basketball and works hard. He may be injury-prone in other ways we don’t know, but the evidence is circumstantial, the conclusion dangerous.

As far as the Bucks go, it will be interesting to watch what happens with this team, because Bogut has just never been the same since that gruesome arm injury in April 2010. For all his gifts as a defender, Bogut is shooting 44 percent from the floor, getting to the line less than ever and grabbing the fewest offensive rebounds of his career. Milwaukee’s offense, dead last in points per possession in 2010-11, has jumped to 23rd so far this season behind improved play from Brandon Jennings, an outstanding start from Shaun Livingston and a healthier amount of ball movement — the Bucks have assisted on 60.3 percent of their baskets, the ninth-best mark in the league, after ranking 23rd last season, per Hoopdata.

Bogut is an elite passer for his position, and his presence as a pick-and-roll threat gives the offense a crutch (the Jennings/Bogut pick-and-roll) and opens up a bit of space elsewhere on the floor. But the Bucks should be able to score at this rate without him, and it wouldn’t shock me if they actually scored a bit more efficiently as the schedule provides more home games. (The Bucks and the Cavs have each played a league-low six home games.)

The interesting test will come on defense, where Milwaukee has been significantly stingier with Bogut on the floor in each of the last four seasons, according to Basketball Value. He’s an elite rebounder and shot-blocker, he defends the pick-and-roll well and scouts rave about his habit of calling out opponent plays and generally quarterbacking the Bucks’ defense. :headbang: Milwaukee’s defense has been only average this season — unusual for a Scott Skiles team — and they’ve been plain bad with Bogut on the bench. Then again, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a defensive specialist capable of playing both forward positions, has missed all but six games.

If Milwaukee’s offense remains so-so and its defense slips without Bogut, fans in Boston and New York can breathe a bit easier about their team’s ability to keep hold of a playoff spot despite uneven play. Atlanta fans can know their team, at 13-6 with three winnable road games up next, has an even bigger margin for error with Al Horford out. Milwaukee might have been the clear No. 9 team in the Eastern Conference going into the season, but they were a pretty strong No. 9, one that could easily slip into the playoff spot if a team above them imploded due to injuries, bad chemistry or something else.

New Jersey fans are already crowing their team might sneak in, and the Cavaliers are probably paranoid about the possibility of snagging the No. 8 seed and blowing another chance at the lottery. To which I say: Pump the brakes. The smart money, barring an early Dwight Howard trade, was always on the same eight Eastern Conference teams as last season making the playoffs again this season. Bogut’s injury makes that result a little more likely, though how much remains unclear, given his shaky play on offense.

The shame, of course, is that Bogut had made a leap as an offensive threat in 2009-10, before the season-ending arm injury. And even with his poor shooting this season, you could seem him pushing himself to get back there–shooting mid-range jumpers again, hitting his foul shots, using his right hand. That process is now cut short. Let’s just hope we get to see that 2009-10 Bogut against someday soon.

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