I recently posted a two-part series, written by myself and my colleague Austin Einhorn,(OptoJump Rep & Houston Rockets OptoJump Advisor)on the environmental influences and the subsequent consequences of poor movement in kids and all athletes. I highly recommend that you read them both (Part 1 & Part 2), but basically what it states is that organisms (our children and future athletes) will adapt to their environments. This unfortunately can be optimal or less than optimal for the organism depending on that environment. It is basic biology…it is that simple!
With that said, in high performance sport, I am always looking for dynamical patterns in the presence of chaos. When you leave the reductionist view that most western medicine occupies, and take a step back and look at the athlete, sport, and collegiate/professional organizations from a larger lens, what you will see are patterns. These patterns and environments start to become more and more clear when one is NOT focused on things in isolation, but rather they expose you to the greater CAUSE of our current athletes physical dysfunctions.
Movement mastery starts during development and never stops. How do you think limited physical education, decreased variability of movement (sport specialization), and limited play as a child affects future athlete resiliency? Well, I can tell you emphatically, and with first hand knowledge, that an 82 game season has become very difficulty to survive without basic fundamental skills and physical literacy!
So, today let me make a little fun, at the expense of the NBA, and give you a very classic and easy example of how I look at today’s athletes and their daily environments. The average height in the NBA is 6’7”, with an average salary of just over $3.8 million (median salary just over $2 million)…impressive! The website InStreetClothes.com, has created a database of injuries of all the teams in the NBA over the previous nine seasons. Jeff Stotts, athletic trainer and creator of this website reports, “over the previous nine seasons, the league average for games missed during the regular season was 4,576 games per season with the average loss per team set at 153 games. Subsequently, the total amount of salary dollars lost over the last nine seasons is a staggering $2.7 billion with a per team average of $10.2 million annually.” Wow…but not surprised!
Well, if we know that based on basic biology, organism (athletes) adapt due to the principle of specific adaptation to imposed demands (SAID), then NBA PLEASE spend $50, and get your $3.8 million a year athletes some BIGGER CHAIRS! Seriously, I am not joking…if you want to easily increase your investments resiliency, control their physical (and mental) environments. I laugh every time I look on the bench and see a 6’9” basketball player making $10 million a year sitting in a chair made for a five year old! That same athlete that is stuck in a small box with excess lumbar flexion and knee flexion is then asked to go from their toddler chair to accelerating, decelerating, jumping, and landing. How is that going to feel? NBA medical staffs…PLEASE get your organization to spend a few extra dollars and get some bigger chairs. Phil Jackson, “The Zen Master”, figured it out (most likely due to back and hip pain).
Next, teach them how to run and then jump and land properly! I am still not joking. In our current culture and environment, the basic fundamental skill of waking and running can no longer be expected to organically develop. With that said, how many NBA teams take time to really teach their athletes how to run...almost none! Last I checked running (accelerating and decelerating) and jumping in the NBA are still a necessity! Take the time and get back to the fundamentals and teach your athletes how to run and jump. Your athlete’s patellofemoral joint (most common injury resulting in missed games) will thank you for it.
I can go on and on, but I think you get my point. Performance is the product of resiliency…you want more resilient athletes that can play an 82 game season, stop just looking at your expensive high tech computers and fancy biometric data and simply address what is right in front of you, the environment and your athlete! I guarantee it will be a whole lot cheaper than having your $3.8 million a year player sit on the sidelines not producing. So who’s going to go first…WARRIORS, ROCKETS, SPURS?
On a more serious note, this example of chairs and the NBA more importantly highlights an example of the current state that our culture and environments have on the longterm cognitive and motor development of children in the educational system today. Move2Thrive is NOT just about getting kids moving and definitely not about building athlete's, but to ultimately rethink how we can reinvent and control the educational environment to promote a more natural acquisition of skills and physical literacy for a lifetime. The product of developing basic fundamental movement skills and physical literacy in those early formative years as a child will provide a framework and ultimately give the child a physical choice to fully actualize their athletic potential. More importantly it will provide movement mastery that can create positive feedback loops allowing for a lifetime of movement.
Please, if this article resonated with you or you believe in a brighter future for our kids and professional athletes, share this post. Start asking why. Send this post to everyone you know and start changing the culture. Let's take a stand for our children's future physical well-being and educate our youth and future athletes how to Move2Thrive!
Doctor of Physical Therapy