Sean Van Staden
Columnist
4 minute read
22 Feb 2014
11:00 am

Spectre of injuries to mar basketball season

Sean Van Staden

Last year the Basketball National League (BNL), after a good few years of waiting, took off like a rocket, and I have to report relatively successfully considering the short space of time they had to put it all together.

Sean van Staden

There were some concerns from players about waiting for payment of salaries, not that a monthly salary could buy a new pair of Jordan shoes or equivalent. The point remains that players were contracted to do a job, and payment for services did not reflect in their bank accounts when it was supposed to. Perhaps these are some of the teething problems a new league has to face or perhaps there are hidden internal politics.

If this had to happen in a working environment, you could quickly run down to the CCMA to lodge a complaint but because the BNL doesn’t have any player unions to protect players, they are at the mercy of their employers.

Next week marks the first week back to training for professional basketball players and teams across South Africa. This is the same period of time where teams are scrounging around for the best indoor facilities. The only problem is that there aren’t many of them around and if you do not have basic regulation-sized courts and hoops then how can you expect the BNL to showcase any quality games in the upcoming 2014 season?

Add further salt to the wounds, BNL are looking at possibly adding an additional six franchises to the league due to the length of the season.

Why is an indoor court so important to a professional player? The first and most important answer is the longevity of a player’s career. Basketball is a high impact, fast paced sport with an incredible amount of running, jumping and dunking. Sir Isaac Newton’s universal law of gravitation states that, what goes up, must eventually come down.

Most professional teams have been forced to use outdoor courts, some courts on tar and others on outdoor low grade dual-purpose tennis court surfaces. Tennis courts are made with a layer of concrete, asphalt and even plastic. You can purchase a cushioning layer near the top surface layer of the court which is commonly found at professional level tennis, but that comes at a price. Which option do you think schools and municipalities would opt for?

Surfaces such as grass, tar, concrete, wood, asphalt and clay all have different absorption qualities which means that an athlete moving on each of these surfaces will have different response times.

When athletes train on a single surface, their muscle fibres respond based on grounds’ responsive feedback to the muscles. Over a long period of time the muscle learns to be most efficient on this type of surface, no matter how good or bad the surface. Now, moving to another surface and playing at high intensity pose a greater risk to an athlete because the athlete is now overloading his muscles fibres from a different range of motion and response time.

Yes sure, let’s not forget this is a professional athlete and he should have adequate levels of strength and fitness, but it would be the same as saying to a basketball player, go and play soccer with soccer boots, on grass, for 90 minutes. Even though this athlete is a machine, chances are he won’t be walking well the next day due to muscle soreness.

Concrete, being the most compact and hardest surface, barely has any absorption rate. When you are running on concrete, your weight and energy is transferred through your body into the ground. Concrete doesn’t absorb energy but instead repels the force back at your joints and tendons.

On outdoor basketball courts, it is not uncommon for athletes to get jumper’s knee or patella tendonitis. Also if you asked any professional basketball player if they have had ankle sprains on outdoor courts, and you will be amazed at how many have answered – multiple times.

Plush grass is a “basic need” for professional rugby players from a safety and injury point of view so why then can’t professional basketball players demand their rights to basic needs?

We are in for an exciting year for the BNL but I am afraid, and you are hearing it from me first, there is going to be a high level of injuries in the upcoming season ahead. Players might blame themselves for their bodies breaking down but if you look just a little deeper, they can attribute it to a lack of infrastructure.