Last Week in Applied Sports Science, 7/27-8/2

If a core principle exists for Sports Science it is that the things which prepare an athlete for peak performance will also reduce the athlete’s risk for injury. But no matter how well prepared an athlete is, the forces of bad luck will sometimes surface and injuries do occur. And then sometimes negligence and stupidity will conspire against the physically prepared athlete, like they did against Paul George.

George had his foot wedged under the basket stanchion even though padding extended the length of the structure, down to the floor. His pinned leg buckled and broke as George’s momentum hurtled him in the opposite direction from his court-facing leg. As an elite NBA player George has logged thousands of hours on arena courts setup up just like the Las Vegas court for the USA Basketball scrimmage. Basket stanchions that look solid all the way to the floor are solid all the way to the floor, he could assume based on his years of playing experience and regular, if not routine, interaction with the stanchions under the baskets. Only this Las Vegas stanchion was not solid all the way to the floor. It gave way, trapped George’s foot and caused him to fracture his two lower leg bones.

If the bottom padding had provided a forgiving but still solid surface, George could have landed with some control, dissipating his momentum over a greater portion of his lower leg, perhaps creating angular force to twist and shift his balance from the left to right leg, and in doing so, avoid the horrible internal moment of inertia that snapped his leg as it was locked in place. The safety equipment hurt the player. When a bridge collapses it’s called an engineering failure when what was thought to be safe isn’t, and it’s not much different here.

Brian Windhorst/Twitter

There is no difference between engineering incompetence and any other kind of incompetence. In May the NBA failed to air condition the arena in San Antonio, negatively impacting athlete health and performance. Anyone who understands engineering and who pays attention to sports has to believe the NBA lacks the technical understanding necessary to assure the safety of players.

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