Tuesday, June 16, 2009

They Makin' Him Go To Rehab

(Forgive my attempt to recapture the magic of Amy Winehouse in my title today.)

Despite our focus this month, the NBA draft is not the most important part of the Milwaukee Bucks off-season. And no, the decisions the Bucks face on the futures of Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions are not the most important factors into the Bucks having a winning season next year. For those who really want to see the Bucks playing past next April the buzz word this whole off season will be rehabilitation.

And I’m not talking about Michael Redd.

While it’s important Redd comes back fully healed from his ACL tear, his process is much more cut and dry than what Andrew Bogut is facing. With Bogut’s injury there have been pluses and minuses.

Bogut’s injury is not a simple snip snip rehab rehab and move on. Injuries that involve long periods of rest and then making sure things look okay usually are a little trickier to deal with. That is why the plan keeps changing on Bogut’s rehabilitation. Originally there was a chance he would be okay after eight weeks. Then it was mid May. Now it is June 15 and Bogut is saying a month from this week is the goal.

But the problem has been recognized and there has been progress. Bogut is not suffering from an incurable mystery ailment ala Tracy McGrady. Back spasms are a mysterious bunch and much harder to treat than are stress fractures. The Bucks and Andrew Bogut have had a concrete idea of what has been wrong with him and how to get him right since February. Maybe they didn’t think it would take this long, but the treatment and rest appear to be taking care of the fracture.

The Bucks and Bogut can feel good in knowing that this injury is not the type that has lingered in other players. In the last few years Mark Madsen, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pape Sow, Matt Bullard and Scott Pollard have all been afflicted with this injury and were able to bounce back without a problem. With the exception of Aldridge this injury appears to target unathletic big men, and often white ones at that. If I were Tyler Hansbrough, I’d be getting this checked on regularly.

Unfortunately, it took the Bucks a few tries to figure out what was wrong with Bogut and that could be more of a long term issue than the injury itself. Nothing is more important to the success of professional athletes than the health of their bodies. But they aren’t doctors. When something feels off, they have to get checked out. When they get checked out and the doctor says nothing is wrong, their instinct is to play through whatever pain they are feeling and write it off as soreness. Athletes are held to a high standard. We expect them to “play through the pain” and “gut it out.” We stamp players soft if they miss time with anything less than a leg amputation. This especially rings true with our big men. They have to show up and take their pounding every day.

In Bogut’s case he tried doing that. But he knew it was more than common soreness. He had to repeat this process three times before the Bucks finally caught the problem. So the next time Bogut feels injured and the Bucks tell him it’s nothing too bad what is he going to think? Can he trust the Bucks medical staff in the future? Bogut is one of the toughest guys the Bucks have had in years, but this could potentially cause him to pull himself out of the lineup in the future if he’s feeling worse than the Bucks tell him he feels. If it is any consolation, this appears to be more common with this type of injury than others. Take for example, Scott Pollard in 2002.
“He received an MRI test last week to try and determine the reason for his aching back. Results were inconclusive. After undergoing another MRI yesterday, it was revealed that he has a stress fracture of the sacrum, a bone just above the tailbone. Pollard never thought the backache was serious enough to cause him to miss any playing time. ‘I was thinking it was something I would be able to shoot up and play with,’ he said.”
In general this is a tough injury to diagnose. And Bogut is not by any means a soft man. It’s important for patience to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to his rehabilitation. A lot of time and money are invested in Bogut. So if his body needs another month to heal up before he can start dribbling through cones and posting up chairs, so be it. Incompetence has run high in Milwaukee over the last eight years, but at this point it’s fairly safe to say the Bucks staff is competent. And that is something Andrew Bogut, and anyone else involved with the Bucks, can feel good about.

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