Friday, December 31, 2010

How Rusty Do You Get After Taking Some Time Off Basketball and What Can You Do About It?

This morning I made it to the court for the first time since I played ball with the guys at the Y on Sunday (I have cartilage degeneration in my left knee that acts up sometimes.) I was disappointed not only that I had to stop after 25 minutes because my knee started to hurt again, but also disappointed that in 5 short days my dribbling skills had rusted to revert to a point I was at probably 2 and 1/2 or 3 weeks ago ( I rust quickly but also tend to get back in the groove quickly, too.)

How rusty do you get after missing some time from basketball?

The answer to this question often depends on what sort of base you have. The longer you have played consistently, the less rust you are going to have and the quicker the rust will come off once you get to play again.

In the NBA, we have seen players that seem to bounce back from serious injuries immediately (Chris Paul) and players who may take even years to get back into form (Kevin Garnett.) This rebound has to do somewhat with age, but also with the type of injury {Paul had a tear, usually easier to come back from (though also more serious in that it is can more easily lead to another serious injury) than wear and tear injuries like Garnett's.)

How do you rebound from injuries and time off?


The first thing you do, and I cannot stress this enough, is stretch, stretch, stretch. Even if you cannot afford to pay a physical therapist, go to one for a consultation and see which exercises you can and cannot do, then follow up when you feel you have gotten better.


Yoga may be the best solution for increasing flexibility and adding strength to injured areas (again, consult with a pt before doing any yoga exercies.)


Another solution (which likely is going to surprise you) is meditation. Often, while there is a physical symptom to an injury, psychosomatic pain is the real culprit behind the issue.

Meditation can help you with these injuries by creating association between certain words and emotional states with the inflicted part of the body.

The "Loving-Kindness" Meditation

The meditation I like to use for pain is called the "loving-kindness meditation," (I know, I know, lame, gay, stupid, whatever you want to call its title, but if it works, who cares how gay someone thinks it must be?) Grab someone with a soothing, low tone (preferably a bass tone) and have them go through the following instructions:

1. gently place you into a proper and comfortable posture position sitting or cross-legged if you can handle it without it being distracting (most people mistakenly believe a good posture means "sitting up straight," but you want to look at having a good posture as carrying your head like you would a basketball. Would you put a basketball straight up at the end of your fingers to carry it? No, you would crevice it in your hands, just like you should crevice your head and neck by slightly curving your shoulders. For more on posture techniques or teaching, find an "Alexander Technique" coach. You will be amazed how even one lesson can significantly alter physical pain, posture, energy and even the pitch, tone and timber of your voice.)

2. once you are in the proper position, your guide should have you close your eyes and slowly guide you into deep belly breathing

a. have them tell you to breathe into your nose

b. breathe down into your esophagus

c. feel your chest rising

d. feel your belly rising

e. breathe out your mouth

(If they see you stop at any step in this chronology, have them return to a. and go through the whole process again. Once you reach about 4-7 deep belly breaths, you can move onto the next steps. But step number 1, then step number 2, take precedence over all the other steps. So if you are not doing these properly, you should have your guide come back to them IMMEDIATELY before going through the rest of the progression.)

(This may seem simple in concept, but in practice it usually takes me about 2-5 minutes to get someone to deep belly breathing, and while posture tends to hold steady, deep belly breathing goes out the window just about the second you try to move onto something else.)

3. once you have reached deep belly breathing, you should have your guide bring greater awareness to your body. Creating this attention is as simple as asking you to feel:

a. your finger tips
b. through your hands up to your elbows
c. to your shoulders your neck
e. through to your jaw, your eyes and the crown of your head
f. back through your neck then shoulders
g. to your chest
h. to your belly
i. to your hips and groin area (if you are doing this for someone else, preface it with the fact that during this point they will feel quiet a tingling sensation in their groin areas and that they can keep their eyes open to make sure you are not touching them there.)
j. to your thighs
k. to your knees
l. to your calves
m. to your feet
n. to your toes

Remember, steps 1 and 2 always take precedence over every other step, and if your guide notices you tightening when going over a certain body part (I notice this most with, in order, the jaw, the shoulders, the neck and the fingertips) have them revisit that body part.

Steps 1, 2 and 3 are actually the basis for any type of meditation, and only serve as a segway to the unique parts of meditation such as "loving-kindness."

What loving kindness does to you is it links types of injuries psychology to warm feelings of loving-kindness through word association. Your guide can do this to you by asking you:

4. to bring your attention to an area of pain and discomfort in your body

5. naming that pain (in your head) in a subcategory of pain or discomfort (e.g. tight, dull, sharp, throbbing, etc.)

6. to take your "warm feelings of loving-kindness" and bring them to that point of the body

And, voila! You are feeling much better. (Although meditation does heal injuries over the long-term, just because you dealt with your pain in the short-term does not mean you should get back on the court. Your pain will likely return in about 1 or 2 hours after meditating and your injury will not be healed so quickly. I suggest that, once you have an injury, any injury, you wait until you have had two days pain-free before jumping back on the court.)

Once you become more practiced with meditation, you will find you can summon this loving-kindness feeling at any point.

You also might find it more beneficial for your pain (I do) to actually be the GUIDE and not the subject of the meditation (this only worked for me after I took an intense semester of "Hindu Yoga and Buddhist Meditation" and practiced it on my own for about a year. But, I cannot tell you how much just writing about this simple meditation procedure has warmed and soothed my aching parts simply by reestablishing word association with body parts that, in the past, I put in the effort to create this worthwhile association in my mind.)

Visualize yourself on the court

Another way you can prevent yourself for getting rusty is a visualization process.

Close your eyes and do the meditation technique to step 3.

Once you are at deep-belly breathing, simply visualize yourself (and a defender or an offensive player you are defending) doing the right things on the court. (Head up, dribbling the ball low, shooting the ball well, with elbows in, follow through, backspin and arc, or playing defense with your hands spread wide, low to the ground, etc., etc.)

Once you have practiced visualization enough, you will even start to practice basketball in your sleep.

Enough with the Mental, New-Age, Mumbo-Jumbo, We Want Something WE WILL ACTUALLY DO

OK, so you are not into that Eastern Philosophy stuff. In high school, did your football team ever have a running back or receiver who kept fumbling/dropping the ball? Did you then see that receiver or rb walk around school with a football in his hands and protect it from everyone who tried to slap it out of there?

You can do the same thing with a basketball during your everyday life (in places it is appropriate!)

This drill should help you keep the rust off.

And remember, when it comes to an injury, better to err on the side of caution!

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