On Injuries And Louisville Basketball

I was in the process of writing about my trip to Chicago and Bloomington today, but I was side tracked with more injury news about Louisville basketball and I couldn’t hold off on writing about it anymore.

This whole situation has long since surpassed ridiculous. There is a Saturday Night Live sketch where Will Ferrell is playing James Lipton and Alec Baldwin is playing Charles Nelson Riley. In the Sketch Will Ferrell begins talking about how amazing the game show Match Game was, which Nelson Riley frequented. This of course brought about the famed word, “scrumtrulescent” to help describe its utter perfection.

Whatever the antonym of scrumtrulescent may be; that is what I, along with most Louisville fan’s feel about this insane rash of injuries.

Injuries are nothing new to the Louisville basketball program. From the fall of 2005 onward, it seems that each year at least one key contributor found themselves on the shelf. From 2005-2008 you could count on David Padgett and Juan Palacios finding ways to tear their knees apart, but those guys have been gone for years so everything should be back to normal, right?

Not even close. The last two years are unlike ANYTHING I have ever seen in sports. The amount of injuries that have occurred and some of the ways they have happened blow my mind. Sure, teams get bitte by the injury bug every year, but nothing like this. With what Louisville has endured injury wise in the last two years, it’s remarkable they have even done what they have.

Lets look at the 2010-11 Louisville injuries:

  1. Prior to last season ever starting Russ Smith was ruled out for 8-12 weeks with a broken foot. He also suffered from a concussion, a strained foot and a sore knee and saw very little action.
  2. Jared Swopshire injured his groin while jogging with his father. The injury was something generally only hockey players get. He missed the entire season.
  3. Mike Marra missed two games with a sprained ankle and two other games with back Spasms. The back pain slowed him until early February.
  4. Elisha Justice missed two games because of a concussion and another because of a bone bruise in his right leg.
  5. Gorgui Dieng missed five games with a concussion and neck strain. He was also limited in the Kentucky game because he stepped on a ball during warm-ups and turned his ankle. (Seriously?)
  6. Kyle Kuric missed two games because of a concussion.
  7. Stephan Van Treese was very limited for a couple of games because of a stomach virus.
  8. Rakeem Buckles missed the majority of the season suffering from a concussion, a broken finger and a torn ACL.
  9. Terrence Jennings missed several games with a hip pointer.
  10. Preston Knowles, the heart and soul of the team missed a game against DePaul with a hamstring injury. He also left the NCAA tournament game against Morehead St., which wound up resulting in a loss.

That’s a crazy long list. While that is a long enough list for a decades worth of injuries, there has been no signs of it slowing down, and may in fact, be worse than last season when it is all said and done.

  1. McDonalds All American freshman guard Wayne Blackshear injured his shoulder during a practice prior to the exhibition in Chicago last spring. He was unable to practice until late October. He was on the court for one inter-squad scrimmage and the following practice he tore his labrum and has yet to make his season debut.
  2. Rakeem Buckles missed 9 of the first 10 games this season while still recovering from his torn ACL from last February. He tore his ACL in his other knee on Monday afternoon against Marquette and is now out for the remainder of the year and likely all of next season.
  3. Stephan Van Treese has only played in three games thus far due to a knee injury.
  4. Mike Marra tore his ACL in the second game of the season. He is out for the year.
  5. Elisha Justice has missed several games due to a concussion and other lingering issues.
  6. I’m not even sure why but Tim Henderson was injured for a solid stretch prior to returning against DePaul.
  7. Russ Smith missed a game because he had a sore neck from sleeping on it the wrong way.
  8. Peyton Siva has suffered a concussion and a sprained ankle. He only missed one game but has hardly been able to practice, which has shown in his game.
  9. Elisha Justice missed several games recovering from a concussion
  10. Jared Swopshire has played all season but will likely never be the same player he was prior to his groin injury. He lost a lot of muscle and was never exactly thick to begin with.
  11. Kyle Kuric has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain. He also toughed through a slight knee injury early in the season.
  12. Freshman Kevin Ware was ineligible until the semester break. He has played ok since he came in however he injured his knee today in practice.

The topic of Pitino running the kids too hard has come up often this season and I find it kind of absurd. Pitino has continually expressed his frustration with this topic and quite frankly, I don’t blame him. While I may not agree with every move Pitino has made over the years on and off the court, there is no arguing that he is one of the best in college basketball right now.

This is big time college basketball we’re talking about. These kids know what they are getting into when they come to schools such as Louisville. It is a full time job and you also have to go to school and if you can’t handle it then there are plenty of programs where you won’t work near as hard, but you also won’t succeed at a high level.

Part of succeeding in sports is working tirelessly to get better. In this case, part of this tireless work is in the classroom and the 20 hours of practice time a week will be beyond exhausting. If it weren’t then these kids would actually have a better chance of getting hurt because they would not be properly conditioned.

These injuries the last two years have been nothing but freak accidents. Peyton Siva and Elisha Justice are wearing helmets in practice just to try and limit another concussion. You know it’s tough luck when a player sits out because he slept on his neck funny.

I have no idea why these injuries keep happening, but it is not because of the practice habits. In fact, this team can’t even practice the way they want because of the injuries which is certainly a huge factor behind them loosing five of the last seven games. When near half of the team has or was at one time injured this year, it’s virtually impossible to both build chemistry together and to properly practice a five on five scenario.

The news of Rakeem Buckeles tearing his other ACL following Monday night’s game against Marquette was crushing. The kid had just battled all the way back from the same injury in his other knee and now has to start all over again. Reports today of Kevin Ware injuring his knee was simply salt in the wound. Luckily it seems as though he won’t miss any game time.

This season has been so up and down with injuries I’m not even worried about it anymore. Obviously I want them to win every time they step on the floor, but realistically that will not and cannot happen with all of these issues. I am past the point of even being mad about it anymore. I just feel bad for these kids.

These kids give everything they have to Louisville basketball for however long they are part of the team, and to see this happen just doesn’t seem fair. To be clear, I am not intending to say other teams would be more deserving of these injuries. No team or fan base should have to deal with all of this.

These injuries for Louisville are simply bad luck. They are NOT the product of practice habits and they are NOT karma. Lets just hope whether or not these kids are going to be able to play this year, next year, or even farther down the road, they can stay healthy. Here’s also hoping no other teams, coaching/training staffs, or fan bases have to know what this type of stretch feels like.