Why Pilates Can Benefit NBA Players

 LeBron James on the Reformer. Image from google images

LeBron James on the Reformer. Image from google images

              A simple google search about injuries in the NBA will lead to hundreds of articles discussing the topic. Injuries were up 18% in the first 20 games of the season compared to last year, and there was a total of 3,000 injuries amassed on January 26th. The NBA did not reach 3,000 injuries until March 1st in the 2016-2017 season. There is a lot of speculation as to why injuries are increasing or if this is only a temporary trend.

              One consideration is the size of the athletes. An analysis done by tothemean.com determined the average height of an NBA player when the league began was 6’3”. Today, the average height of an NBA player is 6’7”. Even more importantly, the average weight of an NBA player has dramatically risen. In the NBA’s early days, the average weight of a player was 175lbs. Today, the average weight of a player is 220lbs! This could be the reason injuries have been on the rise. If you take a tall player, then add a bunch of muscle mass to their frame very quickly, it is more likely the connective tissues will fail. Connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons and fascia take longer to adapt to new stresses placed upon them, especially at the heights and weights of these players. Pilates could potentially be a great way for these players to prevent injuries. Most strength and conditioning programs are geared towards developing power and speed. These are necessary tools for NBA players, but if the ability to control fine movements in the joints is lacking, the body can be putting on muscle mass without the ability to maintain correct joint positions. This can lead to a multitude of injuries. Below are some reasons why Pilates can be beneficial for NBA players:

BREATHING

 Kobe Bryant on the Reformer. Image from Google Images

Kobe Bryant on the Reformer. Image from Google Images

The first principle of Pilates is proper breathing. The muscles that function during breathing are also muscles that help with core stability. During a pilates session, the instructor will coach you on when to inhale and when to exhale. It is important to develop the ability to stabilize during inhalation and exhalation. In basketball, players have to constantly adjust their body tension to jump, land, rebound, box out, etc. Learning how to breathe and create the appropriate amount of core stability can potentially improve a player’s overall mechanics. Furthermore, NBA seasons are stressful. Deep breathing and bringing awareness into your body stimulates parasympathetic tone. This allows for better sleep, digestion and healing.

ALIGNMENT

Pilates teaches proper skeletal alignment during movement. When a client is cued into proper alignment, different muscles (and perhaps muscles otherwise not being utilized) engage to stabilize the joint. Lower extremity alignment is especially important for basketball players because they are constantly jumping, landing, cutting and running. Knowing how to align your hips, knees and ankles during these movements can be the difference between landing smoothly or landing and spraining an ankle.

MOVEMENT VARIETY

Pilates makes you move in ways you normally would not move and puts you into positions you would normally not go into. NBA players have been playing basketball since they were kids. Their bodies have been withstanding the same forces over years and years. The same constant motions can eventually lead to wear and tear of the tissues that must withstand the repetitive loads. Pilates instructors are taught to put clients in unfamiliar positions to stimulate the brain differently.  By loading a client in different positions, you can teach the client new strategies for how to stabilize their bodies.

FOOTWORK

Have you seen LeBron James’ feet?! Yikes! The alignment of his toes tells me there are muscular imbalances coming from higher up. I know other basketball players have the same sort of foot abnormalities, so I am not just picking on LeBron. 😊 Pilates equipment provides a unique paradigm for teaching a client how to utilize their feet and for bringing general awareness to foot movement.  Like I stated previously, lower extremity alignment is important for basketball players. The traditional Pilates equipment and the CoreAlign machine challenge the lower extremities in ways significantly different than traditional training techniques used for athletes.

 LeBron James and his bunions. Image from Google Images.

LeBron James and his bunions. Image from Google Images.

 CoreAlign. Image from Pilates.com

CoreAlign. Image from Pilates.com

While this article focuses on NBA players, its key points are pertinent to basketball players of any age. If a young athlete is starting to get serious about a sport, teaching them how to move properly may benefit them for their entire athletic career. The earlier athletes learn how to move, the more likely they will be able to integrate proper movement patterns into their everyday activity. This can lead to less injury, greater energy levels, and better satisfaction with their careers. Moreover, it’s never too late to start Pilates. So, if you are a 7-foot NBA player reading this, I would find a local Pilates source and schedule a session. You won’t regret it!

 

Below are articles I read while researching the topic of injuries in the NBA.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2758891-nba-injuries-are-higher-than-ever-leaving-league-wrestling-with-whos-to-blame

http://lastwordonprobasketball.com/2018/02/03/nba-injury-problem/

https://www.si.com/edge/2014/12/18/why-so-many-injuries-be-surprised-there-arent-more

http://www.tothemean.com/2014/08/26/height-distributions-in-nba.html