David Chao, MD: Do LeBron's Injury Complaints Hold Water?

LeBron James had a mini tweetstorm about NBA playoff injuries that linked them to the lack of rest before the start of this season. Does what he says make sense? Read for yourself and let me present some data.

No question there have been more injuries to star players these playoffs, but can we really blame Kyrie Irving landing on Giannis' foot on fatigue and short off-season rest? Would more rest have caused Joel Embiid to jump higher or have prevented his dunk from being blocked, which caused him to land awkwardly and tear his meniscus? Kawhi's ACL tear could have happened due to fatigue, but it can also happen without fatigue when a player is going full speed and is knocked off stride. Certainly, the impending Chris Paul COVID absence isn't related to a shorter offseason.

AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds disagrees with LeBron. In mid-April, Reynolds reported "that the rate of players needing to miss games because of injuries is down from last season, and within the normal range for what the league has seen over the last five seasons."

Of course, one could theorize that the fatigue kicked in over the next two months. Yes, star player injuries are up these playoffs, but the "non headliner" players injuries do not seem to be. 

Week 2 of the NFL was thought to be a bad injury week because Saquon Barkley and Nick Bosa both tore their ACLs, but the total number of injuries was quite low. People pay attention to the stars, but fatigue hits all players similarly.

The reality is the NBA cut about 15 regular-season games per team last season and about 10 this season. That combined with the four-month break due to COVID provided more rest in 2020 than the typical calendar year.

Everybody is different, and I don't doubt that LeBron knows his own body. He has certainly been relatively healthy throughout his career. The cause of injuries is always multi-factorial and requires detailed analysis. It is easy, but much too simplistic, to blame just one factor like fatigue.

For more on this issue, check out my video.

Written by
David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.