Jose Calderon’s hamstring injury last season caused him to miss several games and severely limited his playing ability when he tried to play through it.
While I admire Calderon’s willingness to sacrifice his body for the sake of others, I still strongly disagree with his chosen course of action.
Some types of injuries can be played through without significant risk of serious long-term damage. Other types of injuries, however, should be treated with extreme caution.
Generally speaking, injuries in and around joints (shoulder, elbow, knee, etc.) should raise alarm bells in people’s heads, since these types of injuries have a high risk of becoming serious and long-term, if not dealt with properly.
Hamstring injuries should not to be toyed around with, especially for a professional athlete who relies heavily upon mobility.
If a hamstring is injured and you continue to stress it, then it can become worse and worse. And the worse that an injury gets, the longer that it usually takes to fully heal.
Speaking From Experience
I once injured my hamstring and then immediately made it a point to try to minimize the stress that I put on it. With such an approach, it only took me about a week to fully heal.
There’s no reason for me to believe that Jose Calderon couldn’t have healed as quickly, if he took a similar approach with his injury.
Calderon could have only missed a relatively short amount of time, if he gave his body a better opportunity to heal itself, by choosing to not stress his hamstring immediately after he first tweaked it.
Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain
Calderon continuing to play at the breakneck pace of NBA games is hardly choosing not to stress his injury.
Calderon’s decision to try to play through his injury ultimately meant that he ended up missing a lot more time than necessary, and also meant that he was ineffective when he was trying to play through his injury.
I believe that, at the time, Calderon thought that he was doing the right thing for his team.
But, choosing to try to play through his injury ended up hurting both himself and everyone involved with the Toronto Raptors (teammates, coaches, fans, etc.) last season, a lot more than need be.
The fastest players in the NBA are generally found at the point guard position. So, it was not surprising that Calderon oftentimes got badly beaten on defence, when he was trying to play through his hamstring injury.
But, not only did this negatively affect Calderon’s play, it also harmed his teammates.
Even the best defensive big men in the NBA would likely run into problems, if they were constantly tasked with guarding speedy point guards. Is it fair to criticize big men if they have to constantly deal with mismatches, due to a teammate’s injury?
Because of Calderon’s lack of mobility due to his injury, players like Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani were too often tasked with trying to stop the point guard that just blew by Calderon.
The too often ugly results of these frequent mismatches gave plenty of ammunition for the naysayers to unfairly criticize those players, continually saying how horrible their defence was.
Next, if the players took some of the multitude of unfair criticisms to heart, then it would become far more likely that they would take that negativity onto the basketball court with them.
Such an incorrect mental approach on the court often makes players play even more poorly, which would give the naysayers even more ammunition to unfairly criticize them, which would further increase the chances of them taking even more unfair criticism to heart, and so on.
So, a seemingly innocent decision by Calderon, to try to play through his hamstring injury, snowballed into a storm of negativity and losing.
Thus, it would have been a far better decision for Calderon and everyone else involved with the Raptors, to immediately rest his hamstring after first tweaking it and then trying not to stress it again until it was fully healed.
How to Heal Quickly
Now, I believe that my hamstring injury could have healed even faster if I put even less stress on it than I did; I periodically walked on it, thereby putting my full body weight on it with every step that I took.
If a player wants something like a hamstring injury to heal even faster, he can use crutches to minimize the risk of doing further damage to his injury while moving about. Then, a low-impact exercise regime can be undertaken to minimize the loss of the surrounding muscle mass.
Generally speaking, things like cycling and swimming are good low-impact exercises, but the type of exercise that is best depends on the exact type of injury and the individual body type of a person.
An exercise should be chosen by experimenting and finding out which one causes the least amount of pain to the injury; an exercise that causes no pain to the injury, but hurts the surrounding muscles, is an ideal one.
No Pain No Gain
Furthermore, painkillers should not be taken, if healing quickly is the main goal.
Taking painkillers greatly increases the chances of doing further damage; painkillers only mask the pain, they don’t fix the root cause of the problem. Without pain warning us that harm is being done, we are far more likely to participate in activities that cause further damage.
What if a mechanic “fixed” a broken engine in a car by simply cutting the wire to engine warning light, instead of actually fixing the engine?
In such a situation, the owner of the car would be far more likely to further harm the car’s engine. Without a working engine warning light, the owner wouldn’t know that driving the car would further damage the engine and would thus be far more likely to drive it.
Fixing the engine, rather than removing the warning that the engine needs fixing, is the right thing to do in such a situation.
Similarly, the root cause of the pain, the injury, should be healed, rather than the injury remaining and the pain being masked.
Pain is our ally, in that it warns us of harm. Things that cause pain are the enemy, not the pain itself.
The Silver Lining
If Calderon prudently dealt with his hamstring injury immediately after it occurred, then he most likely would have only missed a relatively short amount of time and then played the rest of the season without that injury.
That would have likely led to several more wins for the Toronto Raptors last season.
But, if Calderon did that, then the Toronto Raptors likely would not have gotten a high enough draft pick to select DeMar DeRozan. So it appears that good came out of that bad situation.
Furthermore, there is an opportunity for even more good to come out of that bad situation.
Hopefully, the Raptors’ players, coaches, trainers, etc. learned a valuable lesson. Hopefully they learned that for certain types of injuries, trying to play through them can make them far worse than they started off as.
Playing through those types of injuries could hurt the injured player, and everyone else involved with the team, much more than necessary.
Hopefully, after seeing all the harm that was caused by Calderon unwisely choosing to play through his hamstring injury, the Raptor’s players will make wiser decisions, should similar situations arise in the future.
Furthermore, I hope that the Toronto Raptors choose to err on the side of caution, should these types of injuries occur again in the future. I would much prefer that players with similar injuries return a little later than necessary, rather than returning sooner than they should.
A player returning one game late from an injury only means that he misses one extra game. But, if a player returns from an injury one game too soon, he could re-aggravate his injury and thereby miss many more games in the future.