National Basketball Association (NBA) general managers and team health officials have claimed that the compact playing schedule, due to COVID-19, is the leading cause of increased injuries across the league.
Speaking to ESPN, a number of general managers, members of coaching staffs and athletic trainers have declared that they believe that the compressed schedule is causing players to suffer from injuries more frequently.
"Hands down, it's the worst schedule I've seen in 25 years in the league," said one veteran assistant coach. "It's utterly insane."
One veteran NBA head athletic trainer said it's far worse than the Orlando bubble: "Going into the bubble, we had all these different anxieties about the games, but without travel," the head athletic trainer said. "This is literally exponentially more difficult. It's such a cumulative effect."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 2021 All-Stars have missed 15 per cent of games throughout this season, and is on course to be the second-highest rate in NBA history. The only season that saw a higher rate was the 2014-15 season (16.8 per cent).
"Every dumb soft-tissue [injury] that can happen is happening and will only get worse," the NBA general manager said.
"In planning both this season and last season, we have communicated on a daily basis with our teams and NBA players, agreeing on two very different season formats that each made sense as a way to continue operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic," an NBA spokesperson told ESPN. "Injuries have unfortunately always been a part of the game, but we have not seen a higher rate of injuries this season than last. We will continue to work with teams and players to complete our season in the best and safest way possible that promotes both physical and mental health during this challenging period."
Before and throughout the season, fears about how the campaign would impact player health have been raised, according to the team executives and team health officials. Yet, the financial motivations to play, they said, such as honoring existing media contracts to bring in much-needed revenue and employing thousands across the league, remained the dominant driver.
Prior to the season starting, the league looked to reduce travel by including more instances of teams playing the same opponent twice in the same city and more regional road trips, thereby attempting to eliminate and/or mitigate longer air travel.
Author: Jake Wilkin