There’s an injury epidemic in the NBA. So far this postseason, the number of games missed due to injury is at a 20-year high. In the past five seasons alone, the number nearly doubled from the previous five seasons. So in this age of sports technology and with all the attention paid to diet and nutrition, why are more athletes getting injured than ever before? There’s a growing belief that the 82-game NBA season is the number one culprit.
Count recently-retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant among those calling for a shortened season to help mitigate this. He dealt with more than his fair share of ailments late in his career, and he sees a direct correlation to the physical demands of a grueling eight-month schedule. In a recent interview, the 20-year vet suggested that the current schedule could be significantly reduced. Via Baxter Holmes and Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com:
“You can’t [just] lose five-to-10 games,” Bryant says. “If you’re going to do it, you’ve almost got to go quality versus quantity. If you’re going to shorten the schedule, then you’ve got to shorten the schedule and look to enhance your TV numbers substantially … because now every regular-season game is worth a sh*t.”
Therein lies the rub. The cable contracts and built-in advertising revenue would make drastic changes difficult. But critics in recent years have often pointed to the abbreviated 66-game lockout season in 2011 as a good beta test for what a shorter schedule might look like. If injury trends keep heading in the wrong direction, the league might not have a choice but to revisit this topic sooner rather than later.
USA Basketball is just the latest victim of the NBA’s injury bug. Several high-profile players, including Steph Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, and John Wall, have already pulled their name out of consideration for the Rio Olympics this summer citing health concerns. A large-scale change like this won’t come about quickly, but league has proven time and again that it’s nothing if not progressive.