Jun 11, 2021
In Shortened Season, Data Shows NBA Injuries Are Up

In a condensed season-and-a-half, NBA player injuries appear to have risen according to a recent report from ESPN.com.

After the 2019-20 NBA season had its season paused, moved down to a Florida bubble, and restarted again. And after 2020-21 was readjusted and shifted to align with precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic, data suggests the league saw a dramatic increase in injuries not related to the virus itself.

ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes highlighted this rise in injuries and what teams will be doing to avoid this continuing in the future.

nbaBelow is an excerpt from that article.

The average number of players sidelined per game due to injury, non-COVID-19 illness or rest this season was 5.1 (includes both teams), according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, the highest since he started tracking it in 2009-10. That does not include games missed by players in the health and safety protocols. The next highest season was 4.8, so 2020-21 was 5% higher.

The increase was even more pronounced when focusing on the league’s stars. This season’s All-Stars missed 370 of a possible 1,944 games (19%), the highest percentage in a season in NBA history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. They missed an average of 13.7 regular-season games each this year.

Throughout the season, team health officials and executives internally feared a spate of soft-tissue injuries, such as hamstring strains. These types of injuries can be tied to fatigue and stress. Fear of an increase in these injuries grew more pronounced when the schedule condensed late in the season as teams made up games postponed due to COVID-19 issues.

There were 2,909 games lost to soft-tissue injuries this regular season, according to certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts, who maintains the most authoritative public injury-tracking database that covers the NBA. It’s the second-highest figure Stotts has recorded since he began tracking in 2005-06. The most was 3,038 in the 2017-18 season, which was played in 82 games vs. the 72-game campaign this year.

“When you can’t train, you get soft-tissue injuries,” the athletic training official said. “It’s a known fact.”

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Several team athletic-training officials said they were more cautious than in recent years with players who seemed fatigued or were nursing minor injuries, leading to many being sidelined or playing reduced minutes for precautionary purposes. These training officials said they’re expecting to operate under the same circumstances next season, especially because the league is facing a second consecutive short offseason, furthering the cumulative effects of fatigue, stress, and sleep loss from the past two seasons for players.

Said a second Western Conference playoff team’s athletic-training official: “[We] still have a contracted offseason [rest period] and just had a very high density of games; can’t imagine we are in the clear. I do have to think it will be better next year with a more normal schedule, but we can’t be sure the amount of load these players will be carrying into the start of camp next season.”

“It’s brutal in the aggregate,” added an NBA general manager.

To read the full story from ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes, click here

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