Dr. M: With Shaq's injuries, size does matter

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Dr. M: With Shaq's injuries, size does matter

By Dr. Neil Minkoff
Special to CSNNE.com

Shaqs out. Again. Lots of nagging injuries have been bothering him. So far this season, hes had sore knees, bad hips, a painful Achilles tendon and now a foot injury.

Celtics fans dont even seem bothered by it. Sure, theres worry about the big guy in the playoffs, but most fans seem sympathetic to a middle-aged guy (he turned 39 Sunday) with nagging injuries still playing in the NBA.

Not me.

And heres why the issue is Shaqs size. The Big Diesel has become a Double-wide. Shaq needs to lose weight. There, I said it.

When a basketball player jumps, his knees and ankles are designed to act as shock absorbers to take the impact. This is a combination of the joints bending and cartilage flexing. There are even little sacs of fluid called bursas that absorb the force.

So thats what we need to focus on if we want to protect Shaqs knees, hips and ankles the force of the landing. Shaq is listed by the Celtics at 325 pounds. Please. I went back and looked at Shaq in his Magic and Laker days. My educated guess is that hes tipping the scales between 350 and 360 pounds, up maybe 50 pounds from when he entered the league. Thats under 3 pounds of gain a year they just add up.

His weight becomes magnified when you look at force of impact, though. Thats because you multiply the players weight by the effect of gravity pulling him to the floor to measure force of impact. The effect of gravity has been found to be 32.2. Thats right, each pound counts 32 times when measuring the force.

So say Shaq weighs 350 pounds. Every time he jumps, his legs absorb an amazing 11,270 pounds of force. This season, Shaq is averaging 5.5 FGA per game. Those are all dunks and lay-ups, so thats 61,985 pounds of force. Hes averaging 4.9 boards per game, so theres another 55,223 pounds of force. His 2.3 blocks per game add another 25,921 pounds of force. And we should assume another 5 jumps or so on block attempts and missed boards for another 56,350 pounds of force. Thats over 200,000 pounds of force every game.

Lets compare to another big guy to get a sense of how big this is. KG is listed at 220 pounds, which I can believe. The impact of each of his jumps is only 7,084. So KGs average game of 11.8 FGA (assume 8 dunks and lay-ups), 9.2 boards, 0.8 blocks and the same 5 assumed missed blocks and boards only comes up to 162,932 pounds of force. Look at that double the production of Shaq and way less force to deal with.

The big difference is the weight.

Heres another thing: Shaq has bad hips and a bad back. The pelvic bone is like a see-saw balanced on the hips - the more weight is piled in front, the more strain felt by the hips and lower back. I learned in med school that every extra pound a man carries on his gut means 10 pounds of pressure on the low back.

For the sake of argument, say Shaq split the difference between his Magic weight and his Celtic weight. Hed get down to 325, you know, the weight the Cs say he is.

That would be a reduction in impact force of 10 percent, which is huge. Would that lead to 10 percent more production? I say yes. Would that lead to 10 percent more games played? Once again, I say yes.

I never even got to the important reasons Shaq should lose weight heart disease, diabetes and stroke risk are the big ones. I just write about it from an injury point of view.

Cmon, Shaq. Lose the weight. Do it for your career. Do it for Celtics fans. Most importantly, do it for your kids.

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”