In response to our breakdown regarding why Derrick Rose suffered his horrid series of injuries, many have asked why Russell Westbrook has not felt many of the same effects. He is just as athletic as Rose, if not more, and is one of the more "out of control" players in the league. So how has he limited his injuries?
Ultimately, we do not know their habits, and some of it even comes to bad luck on Rose's part, and good fortune on Westbrook's. Yet, in examining their performances each night, what it seems to boil down to is the landing techniques of each.
As we mentioned in the breakdown, Rose consistently landed with a straight leg, not flexing his knee to allow the hip musculature to absorb the force. Because Rose was such an athletic player, coming down hard on a straight leg happened much too frequently, and ultimately, it added up.
Westbrook, on the other hand, although not perfect, lands correctly considerably more often than Rose. Most times, he will sink back into his hips, facilitating a much "softer" landing, as shown below:
Another major part of these soft landings is landing on the midfoot. Multiple studies have detailed how landing on the heel sends a substantial amount of force up the kinetic chain, placing more stress on the knee joint in particular. Check out how Westbrook lands on the ball of his foot below:
Of course, not every landing will be perfect. In fact, a large number of landings for athletes the level of Rose and Westbrook will be in awkward positions. So, most players who have developed techniques to escape these awkward positions (that could potentially cause injury or place unneeded stress on the body), have remained much more healthy.
Watch as Westbrook, in the first two clips, falls purposely. In these situations, he feels that he is in a vulnerable position, and rather than attempting to balance himself, he simply falls. On the third and final clip, he rapidly shuffles his feet, allocating the force into multiple steps rather than one hard landing. Rose, on the other hand, did not develop these techniques, and consequently placed unneeded stress on his joints during many landings.
Horizontal, Not Vertical
Another potential cause of Rose's injuries was his tendency to attempt an athletic, high-flying finish much too often, rather than using timing, his body, or a horizontal bound to finish. While finishing over taller defenders is definitely a part of Westbrook's game, Russ uses forward jumps to stretch past the defenders much more than Rose. This means a lower-impact landing, as well as a more controllable landing position, since his body position is not distorted with contact, 40 inches in the air. Pay attention to how easy his landings are:
At the end of the day, it's impossible to truly say what has kept anyone healthy, and what has injured other players. Yet, with so many jumps (and more importantly, landings) night in and night out for such athletic players, having proper landing technique is a huge step up on players that do not, health-wise. And, as we know, health equals being on the court, and being on the court is the ultimate determinant of how a career unravels.
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