Injuries in EuroLeague: STOP the demonization

De Colo (CSKA), Gist (Panathinaikos), Hackett (Olympiacos) & Perperoglou (Barelona)

What is being discussed the most in EuroLeague this season (apart from who is winning and who is not) is players’ injuries. The new format -with sixteen teams playing in a round-robin mode in regular season, sometimes twice a week- makes it more difficult for players to be in good shape during the season, while coaches try to manage this brand new situation that arised in their lives the past months.

A few days ago, Dimitris Itoudis said that he talked with Milos Teodosic, who asked him to be sidelined for a few days in order to get some rest. He actually didn’t travel with CSKA Moscow for away games against EA7 Milan and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

This talk may actually have happened in other EuroLeague teams, too. The management of the players is a topic that, one way or another, worries every coach this eason. Nobody wants to “squeeze” its’ players, during the season, especially when the most difficult part of it is ahead.

This is why the word “management” is the most important in every coach’s dictionary. Forget the times when the players could play 30+ minutes from the first to the very last game of the season. This belongs to the past. Nowadays, with back to back games, faster pace and more intensity in both ends of the floor, this attitude is meant to be obsolete.

Sergio Llull was sidelined against Anadolu Efes

For example, see what Pablo Laso did with Sergio Llull two weeks ago. His guard played 30+ minutes on Tuesday (27/17) against Real Betis for Liga Endesa, but just a couple of days later was sidelined against Anadolu Efes. The answer why Real Madrid’s coach did this is obvious and it’s called “management”. Actually, this is the epitome of managment.

For these kinds of reasons, what Dimitris Itoudis proposed last year seems to make much more sense. “Let’s have a thirteen (13) man squad in every game, just to be able to use more players in every game”, he said while his presence in Thessaloniki, for a friendly game against Aris. Except of this, almost every coach in EuroLeague decided to have a bigger roster, so as to be able to make changes during the season, both in domestic league and EuroLeague.

Note this: which top level team has the smallest rotation? It’s Fenerbahce! During Bogdan Bogdanovic’s absence, Zeljko Obradovic didn’t seem to trust any other player of his team, making Bobby Dixon, Kostas Sloukas and James Nunnally those who played the most in the backcourt. So this is a good explanation why Fenerbahce ended the first round of the regular season with three losses in four games.

BARCELONA’S EXAMPLE

What can really a coach do for injuries? Almost everything and almost nothing at all. We could say tha he can do almost everything by protecting his players’ who seem to be tired and have lack of energy during the season, in order to avoid any muscle injury. On the other hand, he can’t do anything at all because we shouldn’t forget that injuries are part of the game -and in some cases can’t be avoided.

Let’s take Barcelona as an example of this theory. Georgios Bartzokas’ team is the one which faced the most problems during the first part of the season. Was it because of the number of the games or their intensity? No! Petteri Koponen has a concussion while on a taxi, Pau Ribas had torn his achilles in the first games of the season in Belgrade, Victor Claver broke his hand in Tel Aviv.

On the other hand, Stratos Perperoglou got injured in the calf during a team’s practice and the medical staff of the club estimated his recovery period in a month and a half. OK, this injury seems to be logical after so many games and advanced time of play, but bare in mind the fact that he had to play more minutes than usual in order to “cover” the absences of other players, such as Pau Ribas, Victor Claver and Juan Carlos Navarro. Muscle injuries are, one way or another, caused by fatigue, over-training or inadequate training.

THE UNPRECEDENTED EFFECT FROM PANATHINAIKOS AND OLYMPIACOS

If we take a look in every injury in EuroLeague this season, we can sum up that just two of them are very severe. Both had to do with a player of greek teams, James Gist (Panathinaikos) and Daniel Hackett (Olympiacos). For those who are not informed about what happened to them, the first one got seriously injured in the adductors, while the second one in the biceps. Both had to make a surgery in order to recover.

James Gist’ injury in Madrid

In every other injury this season, the new format doesn’t seem to be the main reason of the problem. Of course we don’t take into serious consideration those injuries that sidelined players for just a couple of weeks. These kind of problems are part of every day life in every team around the world.

Here are the most severe injuries of the season -till now:

Name (Team) — Injury — Time of absence

Andrea Bargnani (Baskonia) — Knee — 1 1/2 month

Nando de Colo (CSKA) — Thigh — 5 weeks

Joel Freeland (CSKA) — Shoulder — 2 months

Petteri Koponen (Barcelona) — Concussion — 1 month

Pau Ribas (Barcelona) — Achilles — Season ending inury

Juan Carlon Navarro (Barcelona) — Foot — 2 months

Stratos Perperoglou (Barcelona) — Calf — 2 months

Victor Claver (Barcelona) — Broken Hand — 1 month

Bogdan Bogdanovic (Fenerbahce) — Sprained ankle — 2 months

Quincy Miller (Maccabi) — Posterior Cruciate Ligament Rupture — 4 months

Mike James (Panathinaikos) — Hand — 2 months

James Gist (Panathinaikos) — Adductor — 6 months

Daniel Hackett (Panathinaikos) — Biceps — Season ending injury

Coty Clark (Unics Kazan) — Knee — 2 months

Anton Ponkrasov (Unics Kazan) — Knee — 3 months

The number may seem to be huge just after the first half of the regular season, but it’s not really this huge. Actually, there a lot of examples that could stop this demonization of EuroLeague. Just bare in mind this:

⦁ Petteri Koponen got injured while on a taxi

⦁ Quincy Miller behaved immaturely, as he got injured while playing with his friends in the summer

⦁ Joel Freeland dealt with the same injury last season, still trying to deal with it

⦁ Andrea Barnani has a chronic problem in his knees

⦁ Juan Carlos Navarro had to be sidelined in order to get some rest after a realy busy summer with the Spanish National Team

⦁ Mike James injured himself in the hand

Joel Freeland had consecutive injuries last year

LAST YEAR’S EXAMPLES

Furthermore you have to take a look back to last year’s injuries, to see that the problems were more or less the same. Joel Freeland didn’t play that much due to problem with his shoulder, Victor Khryapa broke his left hand twice (!), while Luka Mitrovic and Patric Young tore their ACL in the beggining of the season.

In addition to this, Rudy Fernandez had a surgery due to back problems, Shane Lawal missed the second half of the season and Tornike Shengelia played only 9 games due to knee injury.

What’s the conclusion from all this? OK, more games in the season may actually mean more injuries, but that’s not the only reason for that. It will always have to be with the type of the injuries (muscle or bone), as well as with the time needed for the rehabilitation. Last year, we had fewer but more severe injuried, for example.

Name (Team) — Injury — Time of absence

Joel Freeland (CSKA Moscow) — Shoulder — 5 months

Victor Khryapa (CSKA Moscow) — Hand — 4 months

Aaron Jackson (CSKA Moscow) — Nose — 1 1/2 month

Luka Mitrovic (Crvena Zvezda) — Knee — 6 months

Patric Young (Olympiacos) — Knee — Season ending injury

Milan Macvan (Armani Milan) — Hand — 2 months

Tornike Shengelia (Baskonia) — Knee — 5 months

Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid) — Back — 3 1/2 months

Stefan Markovic (Unicaja Malaga) — Ankle — 3 months

Jamar Smith (Unicaja Malaga) — Foot — 2 1/2 months

Lefteris Bochoridis (Panathinaikos) — Ankle — 3 months

Shane Lawal (Barcelona) — Knee — 4 months

Jan Vesely (Fenerbahce) — Achilles — 1 1/2 month

ROTATION IS THE KEY WORD

For all these reasons we come back to the first and more important thing coaches have in mind: rotation. In collusion with the doctors and the player themselves, coaches have to change the way the use every player during the season. Sometimes it’s all about fewer minutes on the court, some other times it’s about missing some games in order to get some rest. It depends on the circumstances.

That’s why they should have more in mind what’s going on in the NBA, where players are “sidelined due to coach’s decision”. In the NBA they know much better how to handle this kind of situations. That’s for sure!