The Next Moneyball, Part Three: The Art Of Winning With Aging And Injured Athletes


In Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Lewis describes the Oakland Athletics’ 2003 amazing playoff run in which evidence-based statistics called Sabermetrics (B. James, C. Wright) were used to aid decisions made in drafting prospects and signing free agent players. The team’s general manager, Billy Beane, was highly criticized for his use of this method, but his belief paid off. Twelve years later, this strategy has transcended almost every major professional sport, enabling unpredictable and lesser-known athletes the opportunity to perform at a championship level TOGETHER.


Although an invaluable tool that helps optimize the grouping of players who in turn can increase opportunities to score against particular pitchers, teams, fields, and so forth in ways that have been illustrated by win percentages, Sabermetrics does not account for variables of the human body. For instance, past injuries and the ability to physically adapt new movements in response to those injuries can and must be factored into mapping out an athlete’s longevity and career. This foresight is invaluable to determine both the players worth as well as how integral his presence will be in a team environment the worth of the individual player in a dollar to metric see as well as the dynamic of the team as a cohesive defense. As you can see, there are many variables on the individual level that can contribute to a team’s success that are not addressed in classic Sabermetrics.

A new formula that applies this human element must be inculcated to look at injury risk and the potential of a player to make a return on investment despite past injuries. This is my goal – to introduce and implement a total risk measurement analysis that in turn dictates the Return on Investment (ROI) of athletic ability and sustainability.

In Parts One and Two, I explored:

  1. Hypothetical scenarios of creating a version of the “Moneyball” player value system for limiting the liability of an injured athlete.

  2. The basics of the origin and effects of neuro-impedance after an injury.

  3. The two categories of the Kinematic Sports Analysis System (KSAS): Predictive and Athletic Functional Capacity (AFC).

Neuro-impedance in Action

Reviewing KSAS:

  1. Predictive: Injury risk: category ranges from Mild (minimal likelihood of injury in the next 1-2 years), Moderate (possible injury in 1-2 years), Severe (likely to suffer an injury within 6 months)

  2. Athletic Functional Capacity: (Below Average, Average, Above Average, Athletic, Elite) (augmented in Part Four).

Discovering the Real Potential in an Aging Athlete: Predicting Injury

Imagine that we can build upon the idea of assembling a team composed of “washed up” former stars that have incurred several major injuries, and maximize their existing potential to create a championship team at a discount. Let’s take Steve Nash for instance – he still believes he can play but there is something impeding (perhaps a Neuro-impediment!) his body as he notes several times in this documentary: http://youtu.be/baR57TLvxhc

Why can’t we assess a value to the player at the peak or decline of their career?

What if we could predict if an athlete were SET UP for possible career ending injuries, like Kobe Bryant (please refer to the past article editors please link)? In fact, there are many athletes whose careers will be cut short due to their current physical limitations, and I’ll reveal those in later chapters.

Today we will discuss the predictive component of the KSAS that mainly relies on visual analysis.

Imagine if teams advocated the use of human movement specialists watching film of opposing pitchers, fighters, or goalies? This information could provide teams with ways to defend an aging NBA All-Star such as Dirk Nowitzki, and shut him down in the championship series.

This is possible, and it would save teams an extraordinary amount of money.

Why would I be insane enough to put my reputation on the line with ostentatious predictions on some of our major athletes? It is because I truly believe that there are patterns that all physical bodies perform that are invisible to the untrained eye, an intangible metric that I want to quantify!

Patterns and Their Effect on Our Movement Choice Strategy

Do you believe you can see disruptions of an athlete’s neuro-impedance? Why can’t we tell when something is about to happen to an athlete? Remember, if you have the intention to notice, you will! Fans and team managers convince themselves that our favorite star, who was just injured, is miraculously back to normal only because his “healed” physical structure appears healthy, and this is even corroborated by the medical staff! A recent example of this false hope is Kobe Bryant – I predicted that he was not yet ready to get back in the game.

On the other hand, we draw conclusions about when an athlete is the ripe age of 35 years old; he is too “old”, has too much “wear and tear” and so forth. This is sadly a belief we decide to rationalize to ourselves, that this athlete is “over the hill”, but this is our very own self-limiting belief.

The reason that our athlete looks so washed up is because he has developed a movement pattern that no longer appears efficient.

As my former professors at Boston University stated, “There is an interrelationship between the tasks we choose, our bodies (organism), and the environment or surroundings that we are in, which ultimately lead to a �?set-up’ of our movement choices, including the limited ones that currently we have available” (Holt, Saltzmann, Waganner).

Once an athlete gets injured, that wiring or bandwidth is slowed and/or that option is eventually cut off and lost.

Of course, it can be retrained and made aware. But once a great athlete has exhausted those options, what happens next?

Inevitably, injury!

This story reaches across athletic spectrums, even in the UFC: fighters choose certain stances unknowingly and employ certain dominant moves based on their limitations. This understanding is the very essence of what I am trying to illustrate: subconscious movements dictate our movement patterns, which in turn dictate our susceptibility to injury.

At my practice Rehab and Revive, I have demonstrated the KSAS to further our research, having signed our first professional athlete, Chris Pena, a MMA fighter.

Chris is beginning to see these strategies in his own movements and their effects on his sparring and matches. Based on his neuromuscular weaknesses, he has to be cognizant to change his movement techniques – for example, not standing in one particular stance.

Breaking Habits to Create Effective Movement Patterns

As we discovered in Awareness Through Movements™ (ATM) by Moshe Feldenkrais, our body has options. A finely tuned athlete like Tiger Woods — Michael Jordan, or LeBron James has an extremely large array of options, far more than the average human or even their peer —. They created the perfect combination to maximize their large capacities, fine-tuning it with tens of thousands of hours of perfect practice. That is why their athletic feats look so flawless and NATURAL.

There are many variables in manual- and exercise- based physical therapy methods that affect our options. Our goal as physical therapists, Vicky Johnson and Gregory Johnson would say, is to make all our movements AUTOMATIC. There are millions of techniques out on the market to achieve “healthy” living, but only one way to do it efficiently. Let’s move towards seamless movements together!

My Next Prediction:

The KSAS system can predict injuries before they occur by weighing the risks of certain postures and movements that compromise athletes during their performances. Let’s take All-Star Dirk Nowitzki for instance and see the model in action.

Dirk has been performing at a stellar level recently, but how sustainable is this run? I believe he has a very good shot at turning things around and helping the Mavericks to a strong second half this NBA season. However, I do believe Dirk is nearing a season-ending injury (let alone a career ending one) with a chance at the championship lost.

My analysis is based off his gait, running pattern, and his movement strategy, analyzed in part from game footage on January 31, 2014 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmiB0bIVRts).

My medical opinion is based on the following:

Over time during his amazing career, Dirk’s lumbo-pelvic girdle and his ability to use it efficiently has decreased, leading to the cascade of injuries from his knees to his ankles. From these observations, my diagnosis centers on his moderate to major discogenic changes to his L3 and L4 disc, rotations to the vertebrae, and minor to moderate involvement in L5 and S1. This explains why he prefers to stand and run in an extended posture. He appears limited in his ability to rotate his trunk towards the left.

Furthermore, this has led to a cascade of dysfunctions to both of his knees and instability in his ankles. Full weight-acceptance in his legs is near impossible at this moment (please refer to my Matt Kemp and Kobe Articles for the importance of weight acceptance).

Dirk’s jump shots later in the game reveal an increased right rotation of the trunk relative to the pelvis, that I suspect will compress his nerves on the left side, which results in his inability to stick his landings on those shots.

If you watch this game in particular, he is much weaker driving to the left, and one would think it is because of his knees; but, even with a jump shot seen at 1:27, he went to the left and had a poor jump, likely due to lack of strength, pain or something inhibiting his ability to fully extend his knees. When he landed with both feet, his legs gave out. To compensate, every time he goes with left sided jumps shot and lands, his knees will buckle ever so slightly, he arches his back just a little, and he chooses a backpedaling motion to regain lost balance from not being able to stick the landing. This compression of the nerves in his lower back sets up weakness to his core muscles and the connection to his legs. These are important components necessary to be recruited every time to stick the jumps. As one can observe with Dirk going to the right side for a jump shot, there is a stronger landing.

His dominant strategy is to go to the right side as opposed to the left, and the first quarter is better than the fourth (it is not because of endurance). Some other games in this highlight reel reveal much of the same strategy from beginning towards the end of the game. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVzJoSE3iV4)

My game film study concludes that he has a harder time sticking the landing to the left, especially when driving towards the left side. Here is some support recently on a March 19, 2014 game where Kevin Love defends him to the left at the end of the game and Dirk with the weaker leg is not able to jump as high as he anticipates. He extends from his lower back when it should be firm, and as he is tipping just centimeters backward, just enough to be inaccurate on his gauge, he misses that shot and the Mavericks lose. (View the end of the clip in overtime) This win could be pivotal in their standings for the playoffs. The effects of these close-scoring games could position them to be a home team or away team in the playoffs down the line.

If I were someone examining motor strategies on an opposing team (which is unheard of in sports), I would tell defenders to push him to the left side and shut him down in that manner, especially in the second half!

Dirk is making unconscious choices for his movement approach that are dictated by these mechanical limitations (Holt, Saltzmann, Waganner).

Predicting Dirk’s Injury:

Simply put, Dirk utilizes a “core-last strategy” in all his movements that are not driven from his stabilizing “potential source” (V. Johnson).

As mentioned above, his nerves will be most compressed anytime he rotates to the left. If that happens whether he is moving to the left quickly or going in the left direction, he will weaken the legs on the left side and expose weakness when he needs the legs to be the most stable and strongest. This will open up injuries for ankle sprains, meniscal tears, and worse, a season-ending and perhaps even career-ending ACL tear.

Team owners and the sports industry in general are hesitant to accept the KSAS, possibly because it seems like the details and information is pulled from outer-space. We’ll just have to wait and see if the sports medicine, sports enhancement, and the game management worlds collide in the integrated synergy that will substantially change the way that athletes and team perform and assign a value to players.

UPDATE since writing this segment of the article:

In my research, I recently found an article stating that his fourth quarter has indeed shown a drop off in shooting percentage because he is a 16-year veteran in the NBA. However, as you know, my medical reasoning illustrates a difference between what pundits attribute his lacking performance to and my diagnosis:

Read it here:

http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4700083/dirk-fighting-father-time-in-fourth-quarters

Update:

Since I disseminated this idea recently, I sent this information to a high executive within the Dallas Mavericks organization to test the waters. Despite the negative response (as many innovative ideas within the sports world are initially rejected), the medical staff may have noted my review. They might have even entertained the rehab regimen I sent because recent footage reveals Dirk employing better weight acceptance in the left knee in jumping/running and avoiding the left side late in the game – is it a coincidence?

I would say Dirk has come from moderate-severe chance to a mild chance.

Although I will not receive credit for this information, but I am confident that it will save the team millions of dollars in lost games and rehabilitation. This despite the continued presence of minor flaws in Dirk’s bio-mechanics that could get worse the longer they ignore them.

Continued in Part 4:

The Athletic Functional Capacity of the Kinematic Sports Analysis System.

#physicaltherapy #muscle #ligaments #rehab #sports #pain #sabermetrics #finger #anklesprains #ankle #hand #running #kneecap #standing #legpain #painfree #structure #formula #knee #ability #posture #head #walking #tool #bones #runnersknee #athletes #injuries #stress #predict #injury #stability

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