Over the last five years or so, we have seen a lot of injuries happen with the Kentucky Wildcats that have in some cases derailed a promising season.
However, are these injuries actually just bad luck or a product of players “specializing” in the sport at such a young age?
Baxter Holmes of ESPN reported on this massive issue over a two-year period talking about how players now enter the NBA with badly broken bodies.
Holmes starts by noting how players didn’t start specializing in basketball at such a young age decades ago.
“Decades ago, players didn’t specialize. They played multiple sports. They took summers off. They had “normal” childhoods. Now, kids begin playing as young as 8 years old, and they play all year from then on. That mileage adds up — in an awful way.”
Now players decide they want to specialize in basketball at a young age, which then led to them playing their school season and jumping right into summer ball training all week and then playing a tournament on the weekend, and in some cases, playing six games in a weekend.
In his report, Holmes talks about the work of Dr. Nirav Pandya and how his patients’ ages have dropped and the overall increase in patients.
Back in 2014. Dr. Pandya had an eight-year-old boy come in who had torn his ACL. Pandya could not believe this injury had happened to someone so young. In the years that followed, more and more kids began to come in.
In fact, operating rooms would always be filled with trainees because they have never seen such injuries to kids.
Over time, it became so commonplace that the shock wore off and ACL surgery on an 8-year-old didn’t raise eyebrows.
However, the number of patients that Pandya would see in a year drastically increased. Over a 5-year period, Pandya went from seeing 1,500 patients and performing 150 surgeries a year to that number being 6,000 patients and 400 surgeries with more than half of those surgeries being on those under the age of 14.
In Holmes’ report, he talks about former Kentucky Wildcats forward E.J. Montgomery and how he was assessed before graduating high school.
The assessment showed that Montgomery’s ankles and quadriceps are tight, which was hampering the movement in his knees. He needed to get those back to the way they were before he started playing a crazy AAU schedule.
“He’s been playing club basketball since the fourth grade, 30 games a summer, plus 30 more during the school season. And in the years since, his father, Efrem, has seen it all: kids specializing early, accruing mileage.”
One P3 staffer talked about athletes that will say they were jumping their best their senior year of high school.
“They shouldn’t be peaking at 16 or 17…It should happen at 23, 24, 25, but with most of these kids, that’s not the case.”
There seems to be a real connection between players “specializing” in basketball at such a young age and the increase in injuries to young kids and based on what we have seen at Kentucky recently, this could be contributing to all the injuries.
You can check out Holmes’ Twitter thread or read his report on ESPN here.