AT THE CORE of the Atlanta Hawks' philosophy is a simple substance: vitamins. Though those are typically found in pill form, the team doesn't limit its players to the digestible variety.
"Before the basketball vitamin—the individual skills sessions—we have the body vitamin," says Hawks director of rehabilitation Mike Roncarati. "It doesn't matter if you're injured or not. Each player gets 10 to 20 minutes of rehab treatment to work on things that may have been forgone in training."
During conditioning, Roncarati says, a player concentrates on physiological output, such as lifting more weight, jumping higher or sprinting faster. But a rehab session is more focused on internal movements, such as body position and muscle activation. These "body vitamins," as Roncarati describes them, help prevent injuries, increase range of motion and combat fatigue.
"Because of how long their torsos are, most basketball players have stiff backs, hips and ankles," says Roncarati, who was the strength-and-conditioning coach for the NBA champion Warriors last season. "We do a lot of exercises kneeling and on hands and knees, and we try to teach [players] how to properly drop and absorb force when landing from a jump, to prevent ankle injuries."
December 14, 2015
Roncarati says many players stand on the outside of the foot, making the ankle more prone to rolling inward. (Most sprains are actually due to foot inversions, even though it looks as if the ankle is turning outward.) When a player can use the inner part of the foot and integrate the same-side hip and opposite-side core muscles while standing, he is less likely to get a sprain during game action, especially when fatigued.
"We just have to find out where they are most deficient, and when we see a joint where they can't move, that's where I go first," says Roncarati, who earlier this season helped All-Star point guard Jeff Teague (pictured) return in just one week from a sprained ankle. "My job is to be proactive. We want to help them from a regenerative, restorative standpoint."
During a "body vitamin" session to rehab lower-leg injuries, Roncarati uses various techniques to help prevent a recurrence of some of the NBA's most common maladies.
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From a half squat position, shift weight to the outside leg, push off and jump outward to the side. Upon landing, immediately push off in the opposite direction.
An orthotist can create special insoles that should change a player's foot position so he does not land on the outside of it and become more vulnerable to injury.
Single leg calf raises
Stand on your toes on an edge, such as a stair. Raise and lower the heel by extending the ankle, and repeat.
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