A few years ago, ValleyoftheSuns founder Michael Schwartz got as close as anyone has in trying to understand how the Phoenix Suns’ training staff prevents injury. Head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson and his staff are still ahead of the curve, and other teams are still slow at catching up.
Seth Partnow of Hardwood Paroxysm asked Ren Caldwell, the official trainer for a professional ultimate team in Seattle (yes, that’s ultimate frisbee), to watch the above video of the Suns warming up for a Las Vegas Summer League game. With a similar philosophy as the Suns, Caldwell came away impressed.
I asked for her thoughts on the exercises involved and how they related to the mission of injury prevention through range of motion and stability. She was much impressed: “This is a great movement progression. The exercises innervate the glutes and core, making them the prime drivers.” she said.
Making the glutes take more of the athletic load is a big part of Caldwell’s methodology. “A lot of people strain their hamstrings or back and think ‘oh I need stronger hamstrings.’ But actually their hamstrings are strained because they are overused because they aren’t using their glutes enough. So you get them to use their glutes more, voila. Their hamstrings are no longer strained all the time. We didn’t have to go back and strengthen that muscle, it’s all about taking the pressure off it and let the thing (the glute) that is supposed to be doing the work do the work.”
No, watching the Suns warm up before a game doesn’t reveal the complete magic that Nelson and his staff are working with, but it does hint at small philosophies that Partnow goes further in depth upon.
It was pretty apparent in rehashing the nine new NBA coaching hires this offseason that their predecessors were often given death sentences as their rosters struggled just to keep players on the court. Over the last few seasons, the Knicks, Lakers, Nets and Timberwolves all had seasons go down the drain thanks to injuries. All have added new head coaches, and while it also falls on them, there’s still clearly questions as to whether their training staffs are stuck in the dark ages.
Phoenix hasn’t had too many significant injuries outside of Eric Bledsoe’s meniscus issue last season, and that’s one of those things that’s probably not preventable by training methods. The most recent credit to the Suns training staff has to be the treatments to Goran Dragic’s multiple ankle injuries, which link all the back to last preseason. After all, Dragic dropped 40 on the Pelicans on March 1 after being listed as a game-time decision.